In praise of early rising


Dear Artist,

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.

Best regards,


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.

There is 1 comment for Subconscious mind loves problems by Carol Henderson

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Dec 04, 2009

Enlightening Carol :)

Sounds like I need to start thinking about art problems to keep myself on track :)


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!

There is 1 comment for Early morning light by Joyce Everhart Hoff

From: Marie Pinschmidt — Dec 05, 2009

Oh, how lovely. I hope you have painted a few of those strawberry Jello mornings.


The art of the nap
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA


original painting
by Rick Rotante

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.

There are 6 comments for The art of the nap by Rick Rotante

From: Anonymous — Dec 03, 2009

Lovely painting – very soothing

From: Judy Palermo — Dec 04, 2009

Great painting- concise, simple but powerful. I’ll bet it says everything you wanted it to!

From: Isabel Benson — Dec 04, 2009

Can’t get the picture of your painting out of my mind. Can’t even finish reading all these great letters until I ask you. What did you mean to say? At first I thought oh dear someone has walked into the sea and not come back then no, someone came out. It is a painting I could look at over and over and never get tired or bored.

From: Linda Mallery — Dec 04, 2009

Lovely early morning walk on the dunes. I can almost hear the gentle roar of the waves and feel the mist rolling off the sea. Nicely done!

From: Anonymous — Dec 07, 2009

Thank you all for the wonderful comments. It was a very simple feeling and all the elements seems so peaceful and in harmony. The light on the left became the subject as I painted. The footprints go over a small knoll and continue out of sight.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 07, 2009

Sorry forgot to add my name.


The early rising habit
by Judith Olivia HeartSong, Rockville, MD, USA


watercolour painting
by Judith Olivia HeartSong

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


original painting
by Mary Jane Brewster

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.

There is 1 comment for A really early riser by Mary Jane Brewster

From: Kay Christopher — Dec 05, 2009

Thanks for sharing your unusual schedule. I might try something like this to see what happens. Thing I wonder, though, is what about socializing in the evenings. Does your schedule make this a rarity?


Mysteries of the internal clock
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland


“Breaking the silence”
oil painting
by Caroline Simmill

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


watercolour painting
by Gerti Hilfert

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.

There is 1 comment for Concerning ‘genes’ and ‘mutants’ by Gerti Hilfert

From: helen tilston — Dec 04, 2009

Gerti- this is fascinating, thanks for sharing. Helen Tilston


Loosy goosy system
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada


“Shade of white II”
acrylic painting
by John Ferrie

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.

There is 1 comment for Loosy goosy system by John Ferrie

From: Rose — Dec 04, 2009

Nice sense of humor…


by Alfonso Tejada, Vancouver, BC, Canada


“Campo San Vito”
original painting
by Alfonso Tejada

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

original painting
by Jeri Lynn Ing, Red Deer, AB, Canada


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.”



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for In praise of early rising



From: Susan Holland — Nov 30, 2009

Well, Robert, you nailed this one right on the sweet spot!

What you describe, describes my life, including the waking, early motivation, naps when the body asks for them, and most importantly, the brainwork at night when it is assigned a problem to solve.

I wish I had a dollar for each time I have wakened in the night and grabbed a pen and written “the answer” down — and gone back to sleep. Next morning I know EXACTLY what to do, and the solutions that burble up at those times are better than any others I conjure up during the intense scrubbing away during the day.

We are marvelously made, we humans, and we work so very well when we get out of our own way!

Glad to find myself in good company! Susan

From: Faith — Dec 01, 2009

I loved this edition!!! I wonder if there’s an acronym for people like me who go to bed extremely late (unless forced to do otherwise) AND get up extremely early (and gladly). My core sleeping time is about 4 hours, no matter what time I go to bed at night. But I am also a fortywinker. I can basically sleep anywhere, but not for very long! And for me taking a siesta when I need one is actually part of the creative process(ing). I gererally leave unsolved problems for next morning. I have great confidence in my subconscious.

But the people who get mails from me dated 2 a.m. or so are usually perplexed. When do you sleep? they ask me. Now and again, I reply.

I understand that Margaret Thatcher survived and presumably thrived on 4 hours sleep a night.

My sleep requirements are so modest that I don’t even have a bedroom. A decent bed and a table for my reading light and radio in a corner of my studio are perfectly adequate and mean that I have more easel space in my modest apartment.

Maybe that’s one of the biggest advantages of living alone (with my cats). They don’t mind activity at the crack of dawn. They don’t object to my picking up a paintbrush at midnight for that inspired session that eluded me during normal waking hours.

Vacations are a bit gruelling if I visit people who keep normal hours. I have friends in the north of England who – like so many in the UK – are completely burglar-proofed. When these friends go to bed (never later than 11 p.m.) I am banned to my bedroom with only the few steps to the bathroom not under surveillance. Last time I stayed there for a week or so I think I painted about 10 watercolours under cover of darkness in the solitude of my little cell. The early mornings were devoted to working on my laptop until a cup of tea arrived round about 8 a.m., long after my breakfast time. Long live what they called my insomnia and I call the rhythm of life!

From: Kristina Zallinger — Dec 01, 2009

Dear Robert (Yawn),

Here it is, 2:54 A.M. and I am up (yawn, again). But not awake(?). As an early riser, this is unusual, for it’s before my time.

I would guess that reading your article this morning was meant to be. The topic fits my “owlish” situation. It’s 3:01 A,M, and I’m waking up! Two large mugs of coffee help me sustain this state of mind.

In regard to rising early, I think that I get bored with my endless dreams, trailing one after the other. They, unfortunately, have nothing to do with art. So I get out of bed and start my day (or night, as the case may be).

I don’t, at this point, have the luxury of a studio. Where I paint is mostly inaccessible, so I must turn on/turn off my creative processes. My work seems to be exuberant no matter what the time. As long as I have painted, I can put my pajamas on and “hit the rack”.

Nitey night…

From: Faith — Dec 01, 2009

PS. You’re right about those dreams, Kristina. Dreams seem to be an endless trail of relatives, enemies or complete strangers doing silly things and hogging useful brain-time.

I have a studio INSTEAD OF a bedroom. The small additional bedroom (where kids are normally caged) serves as dressing room (no wardrobe, just hanging space and a chest of drawers), houses most art materials stacked on metal IKEA shelves (very practical), canvases and paintings, and even holds my food reserves. My argument is: Why have a well-lit room reserved for 4 hours a night when you could be using it all the time? For small-space dwellers it’s legitimate argument:-))))

From: Doug Mays — Dec 01, 2009

Hello fellow mutants, Here I am wide awake and reading Robert’s latest at 4 am. I’m already looking forward to my 2 pm delta sleep in my good old lazy boy.

From: fookie — Dec 01, 2009

Faith is speaking for me.

I think there is something to the genetics of prowling. All of my life my father “prowled”. During the day he would cat nap, from a few minutes to an hour. Now, during the senior age in the life game, I prowl. “You need to take a guilt-free nap any time you need one”, is your best advice ever, Robert.

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 01, 2009

I’ve been a night owl since childhood. I sincerely think the habit was established watching the northern lights from my bed looking out my window in Alaska. I’d lay there half the night mesmerized. I don’t think my Dad slept more than four hours a night his whole life. As I get older I’m still going to bed at 12-2a, but rising about 4-6a. I want to see a study done on the benefits of insomnia, if that is what us night owls have.

I do “head work” in the early mornings. Research, study, write, those things I can do sitting with a cup of coffee. But to paint? Can’t do it. Being physically active in the early hours literally makes me ill.

I’ve read about the benefits of early risers and tried for years to change but could not. Now I go with what works with my own internal clock. Not having to be at work or school at a specific hour is one of the great luxuries of life.

Author Ellswyth Thane wrote in one of her novels, “Early risers are so self-righteous.” I laughed when I read that line; as if getting out of bed at 10a is a character flaw.

As with everything, whatever works for you, including sleep and work patterns.

From: Wendy G — Dec 01, 2009

At last, a group of people who understand the delights of waking long before those who consider themselves ‘normal’ stray from their beds. I LOVE early mornings (sometimes considered the middle of the night by others). I agree too with Kristina – dreams (at least at this age where sugar plums don’t exist) are full of people that cause me worry and abouthing I might have done, or forgot to do, or wasn’t doing enough etc etc .

And as for problem solving – that’s the time for me! Whenever needed, I know my brain is chugging along waiting for me to go to sleep and stop interfering with the problem solving process that needs to happen. I do, it does it’s magnificent work – and when I wake refreshed, the solution is normally at hand (or at least the ‘wolf of insecurity’ is once again at bay).

My friend sent me the link to Robert’s letters a couple of months ago and I can’t thank her enough – or you Robert Genn for giving us this space to talk to others. I can hardly wait to receive the books I ordered. Imagine being able to go back and read ten years worth of these trusty insights. I feel like I already have a new good friend ready to arrive at my door.

Have a great day everyone!

From: margaret — Dec 01, 2009

Robert! And all you mutants out there, I love it! Now I can stop feeling weird (though secretly delighted to have extra quiet time for writing and painting) most of my life for being an early riser–the 4:30 or 5 a.m. variety. I once saw the light in the attic of a graphic artist friend of mine who lived nearby. I knew he was painting and fixing the place up. It was about 1:30 a.m. Next day when I mentioned how how late he was working, he said he was just starting his day. Now that’s early! Mostly for me it’s just joyful excitement to go on with or start a project…but it’s fun to think of wonderful painters like you, busy at work before the dawn. I don’t think we’re really mutants…just farmers?

From: Ron Unruh — Dec 01, 2009

Robert, I am a mutant colleague – have been for decades. I love early morning hours. The solitude, the silence, the certainty of no interruptions, the hot coffee, the sense of being alert, thoughtful and creative is an exhilarating experience each day. So much is accomplished, mediation, writing, journalling, blogs and letters and art. I’m grateful for the gene. I can power nap any time and any place.

From: Richard Smith — Dec 01, 2009

Once, when I was young and foolish and had all the time in the world, I would go into my studio and paint until such a time as my brain would start blanking out on it’s own. My schedule became 24 hours awake and then sleep for 12. Now I have to have a more “normal” routine, and I have to force myself to sleep and then force myself to get up. The current “normal” sleep cycle is really a hold over from the days of the Industrial Revolution when factories and shops all started at a set time and stopped at a set time. Best to be a mutant and set your own body clock.

From: Leona — Dec 01, 2009

I too rise up early, anxious to get busy with my painting. I love the morning hours. I think working early is my way of feeling like I accomplished something and still have a full day to enjoy other ideas and things. Sometimes I am up early just because I can’t wait to add more or to try something new with a painting. I get up at 4 and by 5 I am painting away!

From: Phyllis Reconstantine — Dec 01, 2009

My natural sleep cycle seems to be 1 AM to 8:30 AM. I tried sketching a young niece at 6 AM once. She looked remarkably like Mahmoud Amadinejad by the time I realized I should start drinking for the day. I keep the travesty around to remind me not to be so rambunctious.

From: Cindy Mawle — Dec 01, 2009
From: Lynda Hartwell — Dec 01, 2009

From a spiritual standpoint, I think our human weaknesses are most acute at night when we are weary, our body in need of sleep. This is the time when our fears can overrun us, and our insecurities bleed out thoughts like, “I’m just not good enough” or “this painting is a total disaster”. That is purely human frailty run amok.

Upon first waking after a good sleep, however, that is when one’s inner, spiritual voice is the loudest and clearest. The human clatter hasn’t started yet, is still asleep, so to speak. Hence Rumi’s famous quote, “The morning breeze has secrets to tell you. Do not go back to sleep”.

From: Linda Anderson Stewart — Dec 01, 2009

Middle of the night critiques work for me. I will often give up on a painting in the evening…go to bed and at 3am get up to see exactly what it needed. Then I can go back to bed knowing that in the am I’ll be on a roll.

From: Karlene Kay Ryan — Dec 01, 2009

It is the best time of the day. One can smell, see, hear, feel the dawn of a new day. It tingles–birds chirp, and one can get into the right brain and meditate to the Divine and with the painting on the easel. In praise of early rising!

From: Tom Evans — Dec 01, 2009

I am the partner of one of your subscribers and enjoy some of your writings.

A lifetime of early rising has been interesting. I marvel that my parents taught me to stay quiet until proper rising time from the time of my earliest recollections. I spent much of my life waiting for the “world to get up.” I marveled at my difficulty getting to morning appointments on time until I realized that these were in the shank of my day and I had been busy long before them.

On one memorable occasion I could let my clock go. I found that I fell into sleeping about six hours and working about twelve hours. My circadian rhythym brought me to roughly an eighteen hour day. In a conventional “week” I had about nine days.

It would seem wise for one to consider ones natural “clock” when selecting vocations and avocational activities.

From: Jan Corcoran — Dec 01, 2009

I am up at 5 every morning and love the peace and quiet for thinking, emails and find this time generally my most productive. I got into the habit when I was a student with small kids. I don’t usually make it into my studio until 8 but I have had time to think about what awaits me. I love early mornings and early bedtime. It is gratifying to read that I am not alone as most of my friends think I am nuts.

From: Gord — Dec 01, 2009

Yet another contribution to the one-story cultural model that makes a virtue of the time of day one wakes so long as it is morning “like everyone else”. Most humans need about 6-10 hours of sleep in 24 hours … starting and ending at different times. This gets confused in the land of the midnight sun’s wild seasonal variances.

So, morning risers, what about the night shift … workers at ER’s, public transportation, utility companies … are they less human because they do not “get up with the sun”? Many painters, musicians and authors are ending their fulfilling “days work” about the time you are washing your hair and combing your face … just as productive and creative as the FASPS. Lots of people rise early each day to spend it watching TV or staring vacantly at walls. This culture forces seniors to adhere to early riser schedules they found unnatural for 70 years but the institution is controlled by the HW&W crowd. Please don’t pass on the myth that there is a particular virtue in any one way of living … diversification is the virtue, not uniformity.

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 02, 2009

Thank you, Gord.

From: Sonja Picard — Dec 02, 2009

I had a good chuckle on ‘in praise of early rising’ – as you once told me–and i quote you word for word “Never underestimate the power of alcohol in your studio” suggesting that at the end of an evening when you have enjoyed a few at a party to come back into your studio and have a look through rose colourd glasses ….top that with your 5 in the morning rise – well… I will tell you, your advice worked a few times for me – throws a whole new perspective on work that stood still for a few days.

From: Victoria on Okinawa — Dec 02, 2009

I’ve tried any number of waking and sleeping schedules but my natural inclination always goes back: staying up to the wee hours of the morning2,3,4,5am, then going to sleep and dreaming between 8-10am(on other schedules I was dream deprived and got sick from exhaustion)then up some time after that but usually around 11 am. I’ve tried all kinds of remedies and such but nothing sticks around even after a long period it always eventually returns to the above schedule, no matter what part of the world I live in. Thank you Gord for sharing there is not 1 correct sleeping schedule, though most of the world thinks there is, esp early risers, HA!

From: Brendan — Dec 03, 2009

If the idea is that a few safe hours can be picked up to work in, then the early morning hours are the ones to choose. Just adding hours is the point, and what better than the dawn when we are fresh

From: Leslie Edwards Humez — Dec 03, 2009

I’d like to compliment your columns and congratulate you on the publication of your book. As the wife of an author of linguistics books, I know exactly how exciting this must be for you! On all levels, I applaud your effort and outpourings of self and wish you a speedy trip to a second printing!

It has become very clear over time that not only do you write well but you think well — a valuable set of commodities indeed and the proverbial horse and carriage of communications biz…or rather, the carriage and horse, I think. Your thoughts provide generous fodder for reflection, and if I responded each time I had something to add or ask, far too much of my available energy would be spent at the keyboard instead of the drawing board. (How ever do you find time to paint?)

Some of us — as Dr. Fu comments in _Esoterica_ — are not naturally tuned to the standard 24 hour night/day cycle. My morning fluctuates with the seasons and moves from dawn to 10am as the year plunges into winter. As my life has changed, so have my needs and inclinations. There was a time when I worked from 3am ’til noon and enjoyed the opportunity to finish first. (In fact, I felt perfectly wicked!)

I find that I am most productive ticking to my own internal clock, and I allow that natural rhythm to set the pace for me. The freedom and comfort of easing gently into a morning’s tasks on one’s own terms cannot be quantified. (Only when forced to recall those years on company time when I chugged along like a V8 firing on 2 cylinders do I realize the true value of rising when I’ve had enough sleep.)

The rules which you have postulated work well for me and it seems unlikely that they would meet with contention in any population. Mine are a bit simpler: Work when you want to. Eat. Do something else. Rest. Begin again.

From: night owl — Dec 03, 2009

Hey all you early risers – you think that you are ahead…not so! I finish the next day’s work on the night before!!!

Nights are for intelligence, mornings are for zombies!

From: Nina — Dec 03, 2009

I wonder if early rising has to do with caffeine addiction. I notice most early raisers mentioning drinking coffee to wake up. I get up at 9am after 7h of sleep and I never drink anything with caffeine in the morning – just orange juice. I don’t need anything to wake me up…maybe there is a straight connection between the sleeping habits and caffeine use. I also don’t need any naps during the day — if I need a nap, that usually means that I am getting sick.

From: steve koch — Dec 03, 2009

i knew there was a reason artist openings and receptions were evening events….strike one for night owls…

From: Angela — Dec 04, 2009

Often 9:30 sees me in bed with a book or crossword puzzle. The problem with this is at the other end: I find myself waking up at 4:00. Logic tells me I’ve had enough sleep and to get up. But it is dark outside, it is warm in the covers, and so I push myself for a few more hours. Rarely are they good sleeping hours, rather misfits of snooze and awareness.

I should be up in my studio sketching, painting but I can’t do it (yet). Perhaps the call isn’t strong enough.

From: Maureen — Dec 04, 2009

I have always been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type. My ex used to call me the princess of darkness for my penchant to start my day around 4 am. (with a cup of tea, not coffee). Since I started to dabble in painting I now have a small watercolour book filled with sunrises. I eagerly await the dawn while on vacation in Mexico. Later in the day, when I am painting various other scenes there is a marked difference with the styles. The dawn paintings are much more fluid, the day paintings are more hard edged. No matter how tired I am, I still wake the same time, and on the odd occasion when I have gone back to sleep and wake later, I am cranky the whole day. I am a farmer now, so I figure sunrises are nature’s gift to me.

From: tatjana — Dec 04, 2009

Fascinating! I always felt sunrises as violent events – never desired to be awake to witness them. My favorite time of the day is right after the sunset when everything feels quiet for a moment, before the excitement of the evening. I think that diversity is a good thing – some of us paint the sunset, some the sunrise. It’s good to know that we can’t assume the emotion impact on the viewer.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Dec 07, 2009

Interesting. I am a night owl. I do not do mornings. This is something that is built in. For most of my life, I could not relate to morning people, who seemed to set the agenda simply by being up first. There clearly was a moral issue involved that judged night owl types as somehow either lazy or decadent.

Then research began showing that those circadian patterns are not personality patterns so much as normal variations in human behavior that during most of human history probably had utilitarian value. And still does, obviously.

I had an experience during my last pregnancy (long ago now) that gave me a personal demonstration of this variability and how it works (and for the first time I understood morning people: they simply can’t help it). To my bafflement, hormones apparently rearranged my internal schedule: up at 4:30, instantly wide awake, all housework done before kids woke up, cooked breakfast ready for them. Worked in the morning, starting to fray by time kids home from school. Falling asleep on the sofa by 7, struggling to stay awake long enough to see kids to bed at THEIR normal time. After baby, I began to shift back, though I never did entirely go back to the very extreme night owl I’d been.

As a night owl, during school or working in jobs that required me to be at work at ungodly hours like 8 am, and during the years that my kids were in school, the only way I could manage was to wake at 4 or 5 am so I had a good three hours to emerge. This became my treasured “quiet time”, when I wrote, drew, read, or simply pondered the darkness and the emerging light. Then I had to be careful about being too active in the evening, because of my tendency to just keep going until, oh, dawn (I used to do housework in the middle of the night, and write in the wee hours).

However, I came to so value the enjoyment I get from the early morning silence that I’ve maintained my early rising schedule. My “night owl” pattern still is dominant: I’ve just moved it back about five hours. Afternoon and early evening is still my best creative time– provided I’ve had those treasured laid-back hours in the early part of my day. And nobody is allowed to talk to me until after nine am.

By the way, the baby from that early rising pregnancy is most definitely a night owl. And an artist.





Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.