I’m in my studio most mornings about five. As far as I can see, it has something to do with the idea that I might be able to fix the thing I was working on the day before. While it hasn’t always been this way, lately it’s been getting worse. Or better, depending on your point of view.
Studies by neuroscientist Dr Ying-Hui Fu of the University of California indicate early risers may be living with a mutated gene. I can handle that. Familial Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (FASPS) is when people are early to bed and early to rise. They may also be healthy, wealthy and wise. Some FASPS folks like to get started in the middle of the night.
Mutant or not, I’m sure interested in the possible benefits. “When you set your mind on a problem,” says the highly successful entrepreneurial mutant Dennis Parass, “you might set it aside at bedtime, but your brain will still be working on it. You go to bed with the problems on your mind and when you wake up your mind is more focused.”
Fact is, it seems the solution is more often at hand when you enter the work area at a ridiculous hour. We mutants are in good company: Margaret Thatcher, Martha Stewart, Al Einstein, Ben Franklin, Pablo Picasso. Night-owling may be good too, but there’s really something to be said for pre-dawn sorties. Wonderfully perverse is a day’s work done before others have even negotiated the morning traffic. Here are a few thoughts for the mutant’s ideal world:
You need to sleep until you wake up.
You need a good reason to wake up.
You need to take a guilt-free nap any time you need one.
As creativity and workmanship diminish with tiredness, you need think about coming to a full stop when you’re overtired.
One of the greatest of all ploys is to simply leave something undone when you turn out the studio lights. This undone part may be a problematical area, or it may be one of those pleasurable passages where you know exactly what to do next. This alone primes the pump and propels the passion. Simple desire may be the key to early rising.
PS: “The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.” (Richard Bach)
Esoterica: According to Fu, more than a dozen tightly intertwined genes control the human body clock. The clock controls a variety of physical and behavioral cycles including fluctuations in alertness, heart rate, blood pressure and the immune system. They also play a role in determining drive, passion and creativity. In degree, fully one-third of the population is not naturally tuned to the standard 24-hour night/day cycle.
Subconscious mind loves problems
by Carol Henderson, Kansas City, KS, USA
I am a hypnotherapist as well as an artist. I help people who have to change the way they normally sleep and get up. Let’s say a person gets a job working overnight at a hospital or casino. If they don’t change their natural rhythms, they will always be a little resentful, or a little out of sorts, and therefore not doing their best. Also, sometimes they are only on that shift for a couple of months or so, and then back to another schedule. Hypnosis comes to the rescue. Hypnosis, as well as a technique called Emotional Freedom Techniques, can easily change someone from being a morning person to a night person, or vice versa.
Your subconscious mind never sleeps, so you can present yourself with a problem to solve as you go to sleep (at any time), and ask it to give you the solution as you wake up, or at a specific time, say as you drink your morning coffee, or as you are washing your face. If you don’t give it a problem to solve, it will work on that last TV show you saw, or that event that happened years ago. It loves problems.
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Early morning light
by Joyce Everhart Hoff, Savannah, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
I live on a lake’s edge and concur that early morning risings are the best. The lake is different every morning. Some mornings it is a silver mirror reflecting absolute stillness. Others, when storms are raging, the water is black, churning with mystery and danger. Some mornings, the ducks are silently gliding across, cutting a fine blade of water. The strawberry Jello mornings are my favorite. They only last a few minutes but when the lake is calm, the sky is pink from sunrise, the water takes on the guise of a huge bowl of strawberry Jello. Delicious!
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The art of the nap
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
When I was much younger and had much more to figure out about relationships and life in general, I would often, when faced with a difficult task or problem, sit quietly in the dark and take a nap no matter the time of day. Upon waking, more often than not a solution presented itself to me when I thought about it again. For years I never gave it much thought, I just napped and that took care of many issues. As an adult, time, work, and life intervened and I found myself not taking advantage of “mind napping” and have paid the price of not listening to my body.
I don’t rise early necessarily, I wake naturally, that is when my dogs don’t decide to bark at some sound heard only by them to do the job for me. I still nap in the afternoon after a morning of painting and stop when I get tired no matter where I am with a work. I feel the “juices” leave me and know to continue would be futile as I’ve become drained of creativity. The important point here is to listen to your body and know tomorrow is another day.
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The early rising habit
by Judith Olivia HeartSong, Rockville, MD, USA
I, too am an early riser and I make my way to my home studio for computer work long before the rest of the household rises to handle the business of art before I start my regular day. Correspondence, updating my website, PR, editing my monthly newsletter, and working through my most recent reference pictures starts my day. I post to my blog each day before breakfast, and then my day starts officially with work and studio time at the art center. I take a bit of ribbing for my schedule, but find that it works best for me and I get so much accomplished, which makes the rest of my day easier and more efficient. As artists we often wear all the hats in order to make our businesses run, and I am no different. It takes dedication and hard work and I enjoy every moment.
A really early riser
by Mary Jane Brewster, Coarsegold, CA, USA
Your letters are wonderful and help me so much. I am a Portrait Painter. I am very productive. This letter especially hit me. I usually wake up at about 2:00 am. It is cold and dark and my brain is clear. I do a whole day’s worth of stuff (work/play) and the sun still hasn’t come up yet. Then when the sun does come up I go back to bed for a couple hours. When I get up the second time I feel great and am instinct with the rest of the world. I feel like I got 2 full days for the price of one! I work on my stuff, business, painting and lately patio design the rest of the day. Then about 5:00 pm I am finished, absolutely exhausted. That’s when I watch part of a movie on Netflix and fall into bed at about 7:00 pm and again wake up bright and happy at 2:00 am. It is nice to have a name for my great sleep style. I am a FASPS.
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Mysteries of the internal clock
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland
There are some interesting accounts on the side of the night owl! I for one can only paint in natural day light thus showing that all creative people are different and work in many ways to produce quality artwork.
Previous studies have shown that getting up late appears to be in our DNA, with our body clock regulated by a series of genes which determine whether we are larks or owls. Famous night owls include Charles Darwin, Bill Clinton and Winston Churchill. It is thought that the division into larks and owls has its roots in evolution, with early risers in the Stone Age taking the initiative in food gathering, while owls stood guard late into the night. Those who fell into neither category could sleep safely in the knowledge that their needs were being taken care of.
So what does that say about the common belief that night people are more creative — the artist who stays up to the wee hours to paint or the musician who keeps a bedtime-at-dawn type schedule?
A few studies show that character traits may differ between the diurnal and the nocturnal. A Spanish researcher found that the time of day we prefer to be most active corresponds to certain personality traits. Early risers were more likely to be logical and analytical, and likely to use concrete information as sources of knowledge, whereas those that stayed up late were more imaginative and intuitive. Another study published in the February 2007 issue of Personality and Individual Differences determined that night owls scored better on creativity tests than did intermediary and morning people.
However, the research presents a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum: Does your internal clock shape your psychology or does your psychology help shape your sleeping patterns, and thus your internal clock? Many questions still remain and I’m sure there are many creative early risers and analytical late-nighters who would dispute the above studies.
Concerning ‘genes’ and ‘mutants’
by Gerti Hilfert, Langenfeld, Germany
According to the studies of Bruce H. Lipton (cell biologist) is it not the genes which program our behavior (or health) but it is the influence of our surroundings. Obviously it plays a drastic role which influences happen during our mother’s pregnancy but also before life starts — even 2 months before procreation. It happens because the ovum membrane is already then influenced from negative or positive facts — such as stress or joy (review war times). After birth the influence continues but from our own environment. Lipton says that a child aged 0-6 just contains information like a cassette recorder and plays them later.
So if you find something is getting worse concerning your early morning or night-owl work you should view your early childhood. Ask who was your guide. My mother got up in the very early morning and went to bed the latest. Today it is clear that I copied her — until my life changed unto more relaxation and self-interest. Lipton’s material can be found here.
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Loosy goosy system
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
I knew an artist who worked on his paintings like it was job punching a clock. He went into his studio from Monday to Friday at 8:45 in the morning and worked until 10:00 when he took a 15 minute break. He took 45 minutes at noon for lunch and another 15 minute break in the afternoon and then stopped at precisely 5 pm. While I admire this artist for his discipline, my approach is different. I live in my studio and work most days. There is something about letting the anxiety of not working fuel my creativity. The inspiration just hits me and there is nothing I can do to stop it. This usually does not happen until at least 9 am, I have had my morning coffee, checked my email, surfed my favourite sites for news and gossip and had a banana and an English muffin. Then any magazine photograph, combination of colour or new inspiration can strike and I am standing at my desk, often in boxer shorts with bed hair and coffee mug in hand while the work unravels. BUT, I am easily distracted with the phone, TV, clients and Internet. The inspirations can continue into the late day and well into the evening. If a piece is really happening I am known to lose track of time and the sun is coming up while I am sitting back either admiring what I have painted or wondering who I could possibly fool into believing I actually know what I am doing when it comes to being an artist.
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by Alfonso Tejada, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Well it is 9.03 pm Monday, and I am ready for bed, but at the time I am about to turn off the computer, I get this message (they come twice a week) and Ho.. Boy! At this moment my plans to go to sleep are frozen and I have to read the newsletter from an Artists talking about everything, some time is my curiosity what makes me wait for the message and some other times is the subject that matter to me. But it is always at night time when I want to go to sleep. The resulting effect is my mind starts spinning around with thoughts triggered by the content of the letters and as I get to sleep my mind takes the subject and transforms it into a personal discussion of the why, the if, or the because of the idea presented in the letter. Finally after a half time struggle I end in a deep restful sleeping trance that last for 4 hours. Then I wake up again and I can’t let the subject take over my mind again. So I get up and start doodling images from my mind I have a big book 20×13 with white pages and a couple pens in the den nearby the bedroom. This has proven to be a very effective way of resting my mind and end up with a collection of sketches from memories of places that I recently visited or images that are still impressed in the deepest labyrinths of my mind. It has also proven to bring bright ideas as what to do next in my personal interest in the arts. Yes early riser is always an early sleeper but the best part is the in between when I wake up to find out what is still dancing in my mind. I have not accomplished yet the full exercise, because after 2 hours I get back to sleep and the next stop is either the 6.30 am delivery of the newspapers or the 7 am remainder of being garbage day. It is indeed a creative state of mind that my broken sleeping pattern has developed in a positive way. It is the ZEN of the mind what keeps the spirit and energy of our bodies trying, testing and discovering every day what is the source of existence.
Perhaps Don Roberto you should try to send your letters in the mid mornings and we shall test if is your distraction to our lives is what creates fountains of energy in the minds of your readers. Perhaps is not a scientific experiment but an excuse to get to sleep at 8.30 pm. Good night dear friend I will try to forget what I said tonight at 3 am.
Backalley looking south
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes John Berry of Wellsville, UT, USA, who wrote, “I have a quote by Ernest Hemingway pinned to my easel. It reads, ‘Always quit for the day when you know what you want to do next.’ ”
And also Laura Henry who wrote, “Enlightened mutants must not have kids.”
And also Linda Michal of MA, USA, who wrote, “Since I’m reading your letter at 5:15, I really appreciate it today! Wishing you productivity way before dawn.”
Enjoy the past comments below for In praise of early rising…