Curious morning syndrome


Dear Artist,

At the risk of once more dividing the world into two main kinds of people, there are two main kinds of people: There are those who amuse themselves, and those who require others to amuse them. It’s been my experience that artists are pretty much of the former kind. In their self-amusement, they’re apt to be creative.

Mornings can have special significance for these folks. They don’t need to stay in bed awaiting the amusements to arrive–they’re already there. They simply need to step into the amusement area. For many artists, “Curious Morning Syndrome,” or CMS, primes the pump for productivity and success. The blessing, of course, is not always evident to the young. Sleeping-in has ruined many an early career. And some folks must wait until middle or old age for CMS to kick in. Some think it’s a gene. I think it’s a habit. I had to learn it.

It’s a matter of setting yourself up to be curious about the outcome and potential of yesterday’s efforts. Always leave something unfinished when you shut down the studio at night. Better still, leave several things unfinished. The easier, the more enjoyable the task, the more the likelihood of an early morning kick-off. At the same time, difficult challenges and problematic passages are often best attacked when you are well rested and fresh. While many work well late into the night, the cold grey light of dawn presents opportunities to the prepared worker. Surprises are uncommonly common to the curious at all times. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has been responsible for birthing a lot of art. “How is this going to turn out?” is an essential question that an artist must ask. Curiosity tramples drudgery and fires up improvisation. Curiosity sets the hands and mind in motion. Self-amusement becomes the “muse.”

Every day is a new birth and a metaphor for life–a relentless carousel with a joyous song and a view for every rotation. CMS is not just a matter of getting into the work area before the telephones of normal business hours begin to jingle. CMS means allowing your own unique “owned processes” to draw you there. Thus the miracle of creativity is regularly reborn. To see your world, your studio and the things of your hands within it, first thing, like a child, with baby eyes.

Best regards,


PS: “The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental.” (John Holt)

Esoterica: It’s also been my observation that artists who allow themselves to be dependent on others don’t thrive in the same way that the independent ones do. Part of the reason is that dependent people often don’t seem to have enough time for an inner life and private curiosity. Furthermore, it looks to me like the independents are the most alive, the most experimental, and often the most productive. Some of them are quiet, but they are not bored, nor are they boring. In the words of journalist Ellen Parr: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”


In the still of the night
by Sutherland Taylor

I have never been a morning person, and despite a lifetime of early bird propaganda, I find that the world only truly comes alive well after the sun has gone down, and the noisy bustle of the day-timers is silenced by their merciful bedtime. Then I can listen to, and actually hear, what most people claim to be seeing, while they’re running around, noisily ignoring it.


More from the night owl dept.
by Susan-Rose Slatkoff, Victoria, BC, Canada


“Gothic Window, Gothic Forest”
original painting
by Susan-Rose Slatkoff

Holy cow! Who would have thought that you were a day person! And a somewhat smug one at that. I stand for the rights of the night owl! The day people have taken over; we night owls must arise and challenge their tyranny. Late at night the world is quiet and at peace, worried thinking has ceased, there are stars for god’s sake, the air is filled with night smells, the muse comes to visit. It pleases me that you enjoy and do well in the morning, but it is not for everyone. Respect those with differing circadian rhythms. You’re such a great guy otherwise.

(RG note) Thanks, Susan-Rose, Sutherland and the nearly one hundred others who came after me for my inexcusable prejudice concerning the value of mornings. I should be ashamed for putting out such unbalanced ignorance. As penance I’ll be staying up real late tonight — drinking.


See you in the morning
by Helen Scott, New Bern, NC, USA

I am a “self-amuser.” My husband is not an artist and is a “need-others-to-amuse-him” person. Therefore, my early morning rising (about 3 hours before he does) allows me the wonderful quiet time I need to ask myself all my current “What if I do this…?” questions, to get the answers and be ready to go to work on current projects (I have many going at one time, both works-in-progress and lesson planning for classes I teach at local community college). No phones ring and the radio’s early morning news program plays softly in the background. I was born into a family of artists who made their livings from art. My fascination with art may either be genetic or environmental or a bit of both. Discipline must be self-learned although I had quite a bit shown to me by family members as well as exerted on me by them. A day without art is like a day without sunshine. See you in the morning — early!


Stymied by mental finishing
by Kelly Borsheim, Cedar Creek, TX, USA


“Parco della Montagnola, Bologna”
oil painting
by Kelly Borsheim

I never seem to have a problem in “leaving several things unfinished” each night. My problem often is that once I see something finished in my head, I am ready to move onto the next project before the physical catches up to the mental. Finishing a work of art always warrants a celebration, no matter how minor. The good news is that I am easily amused and the celebration usually involves the reward of diving head first into the next idea.


Divine privilege
by Valerie Kent, Richmond Hill, ON, Canada


“Light Across the Water”
watercolor painting
by Valerie Kent

The studio calls to me all the time, but the real world gets in the way and I need to leave for work — those artist folks with day jobs plus evening jobs suffer from the curiosity that cannot be stifled, but also cannot be indulged. May you be twice blessed: be blessed with the time to be curious both morning and night. It is a divine privilege.



Divine gift
by Gene Black, Anniston, AL, USA


“Foggy Morning at Grandpa’s Farm”
watercolor painting
by Gene Black

I have always been able to amuse myself, even before my artistic endeavors started (after age 40). I was often thought of as a loner or a shy child. I was, however, quite content with my own company and my imagination. My best friends were books. I have become more social through the years but I still retain the ability to amuse myself. I consider it a divine gift. These days the paints and brushes speak to me, I hear them calling now, create, create, it is your place in the universe.


‘The Curiosity Kid’
by Kim Power, The Hague, Netherlands


“Hee Seung”
watercolor painting
by Kim Power

My mother always called me “The Curiosity Kid.” As an adult, keeping my curiosity alive is a way of keeping my mind open to all the possibilities in this world. When I complained there was nothing to do my mother told me to “Be creative.” Well, it seems her advice was good, because I am never bored. I always have an ongoing work that I am excited to see the outcome of. In addition, I find that I’m always learning something new from my work, a new way of seeing that wasn’t apparent right away. This happened when I decided to do more drawing and is happening again as I renew my interest in batik. Being curious helps me to learn. This feeds my spirit each day.



Drawings prime the pump
by Claudio Ghirardo, Mississauga, ON, Canada

What I find works really well is to spend a day or two just sketching and drawing, doing works that eventually you would like to do a finished piece of. That way, when you wake up in the morning, you just go to the studio, look through the sketchbook and find a drawing that inspires you to get to work. I must have 50 drawings, and counting, lying around ready to be done and as I progress, I see new possibilities with old drawings that get my juices going. Not only is curiosity important but also the willingness to risk and experiment.


Morning joy
by Gerti Hilfert, Langenfeld, Germany


“Mr. X’s Morning Exercises”
original drawing
by Gerti Hilfert

When I was aged about 3 or 4 I was this little early one — full of creativity — singing and chirping in my bed. It was my mother who told me to shut up and keep still because my father was still asleep. This was so hard for me because I loved to sing and always was full of joy in the morning. On Sundays it was the hardest. To me it seemed like endless time staying in my bed till the adults decided to get up. It was real torture. After some time my chirpy habit changed into a depressing giving up and falling asleep again. I mutated to one of these as I say “killing-the-day-asleep-types.” From this new habit getting up early appeared horrible, also from a following new habit: I could not fall asleep at bedtime — I was caught in a new circle.

Since I am now a mother, my morning struggles changed again into moments of joy. My little son gave me new creativity. I got something back that I never believed would happen. And I started the day singing for my baby. Today I am so thankful about this treasure: rediscovering my early morning creativity. When my son was 11 months old I rediscovered drawing, painting and sculpting. Studies say most people’s energy level is on top in the morning until about 11 a.m. Concentration falls at that time and returns at 3-4 p.m. for only 1-2 hours. I always find morning jobs much more satisfying because of quicker and better results from highest concentration.


Two kinds of people dept.
by Lyn Lecuyer, Tatla Lake, BC, Canada

There is more than one way to define the two kinds of people in this world. There are those who are crystals and those who are fungus. Artists are crystals, most often refusing to be defined by mainstream society. Crystals tend to be vibrant, dynamic, awake and not lost in the ‘waking sleep’ stupor that seems to be overtaking our world at an alarming rate. We shine, reflect, transmit, and vibrate on a frequency that fungus finds alarming and disturbing. If you’re ever feeling like what you do is not important, just remember you’re a crystal in a world full of fungus. Everything you do is extremely important, so just keep on doing it.


Whimsical notions
by Jeanne Long, Minneapolis, MN, USA


“Dawn in the peace garden”
watercolor painting
by Jeanne Long

The first paragraph of your letter describing the two main kinds of people, the ones who amuse themselves and those who require others to amuse them, made my heart sing! How delightful to see this division delineated so simply and elegantly. So often I’ve been dragged out against my will by others who require people to make their day interesting when I’ve wanted to stay home and play with my paints. I love Emerson’s description too of his hanging a sign on his door to ward off visitors with one simple word, “whim.” We who make art so enjoy the space to follow those whimsical notions to their exciting fruition instead of toiling away at the dictates of a patron, or running off to fulfill someone else’s requests.


Balanced in the middle — ‘other’
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, BC, Canada


“Snow in Burnaby Mountain Park”
acrylic painting
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

The romantic view of child is innocence and curiosity. Child is selfish and self-serving to any limits allowed or stolen from the “dependent” kind of parents. I would personally like to be in a third category that you didn’t mention, and that should be valid in every categorization — “other,” or “somewhere in the middle,” or “balanced.” Binary implies love or war — friendship is analogue.



Skilled in tune-out
by Len Sodenkamp, Boise, ID, USA


“Salmon River Dawn”
oil painting
by Len Sodenkamp

Over the years I have been called absent-minded, tuned out, the dreamer, and my favorite just plain weird. I married at age 19. Talk about a dreamer. That poor girl didn’t have a clue. Especially being of the need to be entertained variety. We parted ways at the magic number of 13 years. It was during that time period that I really honed to a fine edge the tune-out skill I still practice today. Elaine, my wonderful partner of 22 years, is thankfully a self-entertaining person. God bless her, she sees the distant look and goes off to do her thing. What a gift that is. Good to know there is a name for this amazing affliction called CMS.


Unique equipment isolates
by Carolyn Barnett, Kingston, ON, Canada


“Long Lac”
hand loomed wool and cotton sweater
by Carolyn Barnett

My mum said I was always amusing myself with scrapbooks, clothing my dollies, building things and so on. I always seem to have a head full of ideas but only 24 hours in the day and only two hands! My CMS comes while I’m still in bed asleep… just prior to waking. I get ideas that have taken me far. I have designed my knits then too. Further, I’m alone in my field in my town. Not many folk use the domestic flat bed knitting machine to make a living, not like potter’s wheels and guilds, jewelers etc., so I’m on my own a lot with little influence from peers that push me in any direction. I’m free to look, read, experience and translate how it suits my style.


How to turn pro
by Kris Bradley, St. Paul, MN, USA

Can you comment on transitions for emerging artists? Transitions from full-time, mortgage-paying jobs to a life supported primarily by art income? When to take that loan out for equipment, for example? What have artists told you? What are your own experiences? What questions should I be asking myself? I have a full time, non-art-related job, which provides me the luxury of paying all of my bills and allows even the occasional time off to take a short artist residency. While this life-support is great, long term it is a trade-off from the kind of dedicated time my artwork needs. If long-term the full-time job will eventually go, how does one transition to part-time art income, while not losing health insurance, etc.?

(RG note) Thanks Kris. I’ve tackled this question before and there are several places on our site where our community has given tips for the successful transition. Please see: Turning pro, Lots of time, Taking the leap


Image problems
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia

In the last clickback we have a naked woman. This is visible for usual skilled artist as naked woman in normal light. It is not my opinion that is bad (I am medical man in former life and never offend any model), but Islamic countries have reason to stop the Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter all-world uniting mission. Here we are remembering that there are some people that want to decrease uniting, peace-carrying, understanding ensuring mission of RG TWL. Our mission is very important for mankind, so “dark-light model” pictures might be considered as “normal-light model” pictures if only weak light is clothes of model. This is only one example of complicated destructive inputs of some subscribers, there are probably many that only look at it as innocent art, but sent with intention to decrease the reach of RG TWL into some countries.






oil painting
by Mary McAndrew, Clarence Center, NY, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2005.

That includes Bob Cook who wrote, “People can be more properly divided into three main types — those who understand math and those who don’t.”

And also Sandi Reid of Victoria BC, Canada who wrote, “I was born with CMS — drove my mom nuts. When I married and had kids — drove them nuts! Kids are grown up and left home — now I just drive hubby nuts!”

And also Andries Veerman (Mayte Quezada) who wrote, “Thanks for your help in bringing that Chinese website down. You are the Godfather of Artists.”

And Claire Holcomb who wrote, “Thank you for the concept of CMS. Of course there is also CES to which I think I am more drawn. Midnight and my brain turns on. In morning and afternoon it can happen, but it’s not as natural.”

And Catherine Robertson of White Rock, BC, Canada who wrote, “Throwing the feet over the side of the bed in the early morning is so very much easier when a painting day lies ahead—easier than in the old days, when office work, typing, filing, blah, blah, was the day’s routing.”

And also Bill Adams who wrote, “The brain is more likely to be ‘open for business’ in the morning. Thought processes tend to get sludgy as the day wears on. I once worked for a building contractor whose motto was, ‘Never make a decision after lunch.'”

And Sharon Pitts of Montclair, NJ, USA who wrote, “As far as Ellen Parr’s quote about curiosity, I would add a different last sentence: ‘Curiosity does not require a cure.’ ”




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