In the 5am club

Despite being not a night person, I’m not the kind of person who can hop out of bed at 5 am. I already get up at 6 am, and there’s something painful about giving up that last hour.

I started writing novels in 2012 when I only had one kid, and I did all my writing at night after bed time. One kid became two, and two became three. Still the nighttime was my preferred writing time.

Then we moved overseas. My teaching load is more mentally tiring. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I teach middle school now instead of high school. I really love middle school, but they need more energy and love and structure. I also teach three different classes in 5 blocks, rather than 2 different classes 4 blocks.

On top of the teaching, I live in another country, so I have daily interactions in another language. I love speaking Portuguese and learning, but it drains the brain.

So, when 8:00 pm rolls around now and the kids are all in bed, I find myself with very little mental gas left in the tank. During breaks from school I’m just as productive as a writer in the evenings. But during the school year, it’s hard.

So, I hiked up my jammies and set the alarm for 5 am.

The first morning I couldn’t even sit upright. I had to lay on the couch, completely flat, with my laptop on my legs. The second morning, I just leaned back and stretched my legs out. By the third morning I could sit like a normal human.

I noticed that my brain was totally focused on my writing in the early morning. I haven’t yet thought of my to-do list, I don’t worry about the laundry, I don’t feel an urge to book a vacation. My attention is narrowed in. As a result, I find I get a lot done in that hour. I probably accomplish as much in that hour as I would in 2 hours in the evening from 8-10 pm.

After a week and a half, I was so exhausted I started stuttering. I had to get more disciplined about going to bed on time. I can’t stay up late and get up early for very long. I went to bed at 8:30 pm one night and slept until 6:30 the next morning. That reset me. Now I’m better about getting to bed by 9 pm in time for some reading.

I take a day or two off each week, but I find that I wake up a little bit at 5 am. I get up quicker and I get to work faster. This might have to be my new normal, but I’m cool with that.

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