Quarantine part 2
I’m celebrating nearly a year as a member of the 5 am club. It’s not a real club. We don’t meet up or discuss anything. We just wake up at 5 am. It’s awesome. 5 AM club is a concept started by Robin Sharma, a spiritual leadership expert and author (Known for his book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and more). I began in August 2019 because it was the summer holiday. I figured, School’s out, the workload will be doubled down. I’m a freelance illustrator. So I basically don’t schedule too many things to be with my little girl. And with so much mother-daughter time things get intense. Play, craft, bake repeat. How does one fill her batteries in such times? By scheduling some personal time. And the available slot was before the sun came up. I honestly thought it’ll last a month or so. But here we are one year later. I’m still waking up with a chiming bell for the alarm. A soft tune and I bounce out of bed.
New routines are hard.
It wasn’t always like that. Oh no no no…I struggled.
Before I bounced, I flopped out of bed. Slumped on the floor and dragged my self to the kitchen where I prepared a massive cup of coffee. After a month I got used it. Not only that. I loved it so much I tried going for the 4 am club. A mistake. It was a bit much. so I decided to stick to 5 – The new routine came with a price. If I didn’t make the sacrifice, 5 AM would not have worked for me. That meant. No late-night TV. No going out, or rarely doing so. I read for an hour and by 22:00 -it was lights out.
That’s 7 hours of sleep. Barely enough in my book.
I’m up, now what?
balancing a jug of coffee I go back to bed and flip open my IPad. What I do is write. I’m working on a rather ambitious passion project. A piece of fiction. A novel. A story I want to tell. How ironic that the story is about sleep. Sometimes between drafts, I take a break from writing. I draw, doodle or sketch. The subjects of my drawings were pulled from the pages of the story I wrote (the illustrations in this post are some of the characterizations I played with). By taking the time of the morning to draw – I created a space for clarity and emotional distance so when I read my stuff I could approach the editing process more effectively. The year came and went and I was lovin’ it. I became one of those vain morning people everyone loves to hate. So full of myself and my efficiency. Yup. That was I. I got so much done.
When March came along with COVID and lockdown and panic. Things changed. I tried shifting my quality time to the evenings. Typing in bed after my daughter went to sleep. The news drifted through the window from the neighbors. Distracted by worry. Overwhelmed by the weight of the day. Tired after homeschooling and zoom meetings with clients. Creativity and flow stuttered and failed on me. I typed and filled pages. But it wasn’t fun.
After a few weeks of this, I decided it wasn’t working. So I closed the window, went on a news diet, and sealed my bubble. It helped. after calming down, I joined the 5 AM club again. It paid off. My slot of time was the morning. Bright and early worked for me. I began the day fresh. A new sheet of paper in life’s typewriter. I embedded myself in my story. Discarded old villains and made up new ones. Added new POVs and settled on third-person limited. I deleted whole chapters to make room for brand new rewrites. I gave birth to a made-up world. It helped me get through those strange days of uncertainty.
I love the feeling of front-loading my creative bucket first thing. After that…whatever came was better received. If the day prolonged into a struggle to do homework with my first grader. Or a nagging need from her to do crafts all day long…I had the energy reserve to do it. When the days stretched into eternal boredom of cleaning and cooking and spinning around 7-year-old needs. At least I had my block of time to look forward to. Quality time with family is important. Yeah yeah yeah… But 24/7 for 80 days is a bit much!
I completed my 3rd draft just as the lockdown eased up. Now I’m midway into the 4th draft, even as the second wave of COVID hits the shore. My book is still in the pre-editing stage. COVID is still roaming about and may stick around for the next year or two or three. There are uncertainties I have no control over. But at least I have control over when I wake up. I have control over the energy with which I choose to start my day.