I stand at the edge of the pier waiting for the sun. It is 6-something a.m. I am alone. It’s cooler than I had expected. It is also quiet. The water is calm, empty of boat traffic. I hear a bird’s wings flapping in front of me. I hear the soft hush of waves rippling as the wind blows across the Hudson River.
The usual buzz, the white noise of urban activity and life is absent. I am lifted into this space of solitude and silence. Then the light arrives. It peeks through the clouds and the buildings turning gray sky shades of yellow orange. But the show has only just begun as the sun takes the stage.
For some time I have been chasing the sunrise. I carry a crumpled piece of paper with me titled, “Beneficial Daily Routines,” which has “rise before the sunrise,” at the top of the bulleted list. Other items on the list such as “drink a full glass of room temperature or warm water,” or “scrape your tongue,” are easy and require little effort. Rising before the sun, however, especially during the winter months or when I’m a night owl, can be tough.
But I refer back to my crumpled piece of paper when I feel off or lose my routine because it serves as a reminder, “ah, this is where I begin again.” For creative types, people who meditate, and yogis, the time before the sunrise is a special time.
In the “Creative Habit,” Twyla Tharp says about writers, “The most productive ones get started early in the morning, when the world is quiet, the phones aren’t ringing, and their minds are rested, alert, and not yet polluted by other people’s words.”
Inhabiting that space of solitude and silence at sunrise is a bit magical. I felt more alive and open as I stood at the edge of the pier watching the sun climb the sky. Whether your mind is sharp or dull, the hours before the morning rush can offer an opportunity to get warmed up for the day.
In the “Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron lists the first task in the book as “every morning, set your clock one-half hour early; get up and write three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness morning writing.”
When I first attempted this practice many years ago, I lasted a few days and then I went back to my regular routine. It was like a fad diet where it works while it lasts but doesn’t stick and then you go back to your old eating habits and gain all the weight back.
In “Page after Page,” author Heather Sellers describes her routine, “More normal is this kind of day: I go to bed at 8:30 p.m. I set the alarm for 5 a.m. I will get up right then and get to work on the novel, and also stop drinking and lose five pounds.” Then she goes on to describe what an average morning is really like for her.
But does the ability to get into a creative flow only exist in those early hours or can you sink in to it at any time? The notion of starting with the sun is really about setting up a routine at a time when you are least distracted by internal brain clutter and external diversions.
What’s your normal? What works for you? If you allow yourself to be, to flow, what comes naturally?
You can always chase the sunrise until you get back to your normal or figure out what a normal writing routine looks like for you. What matters most is finding a way to return to the practice day after day.