From Miracle Morning to Before Breakfast, morning rituals and routines are a hot topic these days. Join Jennifer as she discusses her own preference for mornings and looks at the daily rituals of some notable people of the past.
If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript.
You’re the Cream in My Coffee eBook is FREE May 13 through May 17, 2019: https://www.amazon.com/Youre-Cream-Coffee-Roaring-Twenties-ebook/dp/B01JD9XJ3S
Mason Currey’s books:
Daily Rituals: Women Who Work: https://www.amazon.com/Daily-Rituals-Women-at-Work-ebook/dp/B07FLNRYNR
Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Morning-Not-So-Obvious-Guaranteed-Transform-ebook/dp/B00AKKS278
Before Breakfast podcast by Laura Vanderkam https://lauravanderkam.com/before-breakfast-podcast/
Transcript of Episode 13: Joy in the Morning
Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and it’s May 12, 2019, as I record this.
This is Episode number thirteen of the podcast–a baker’s dozen.
It’s full-on spring here in North Idaho, and I’ve been enjoying sitting on the deck in the morning with my coffee, overlooking the mountains. My early-morning deck-sitting has inspired me to focus this week’s episode on the unique and special value of mornings. More on that in a minute.
First I wanted to let you know that my first novel, YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE eBook edition will be FREE this week on Amazon, May 13 through 17, 2019. You’re the Cream in My Coffee is the first book in the Roaring Twenties series, a clean, sweet romance set in 1920s Chicago. Small-town girl Marjorie Corrigan travels to Chicago and thinks she sees her first love, believed killed in the Great War, standing alive and well in a train station. Of course she needs to find out whether it’s really him, and if so, why he never came home. Meanwhile, she has a fiance waiting for her to come home as the ticking time bomb of their wedding looms. If that sounds like your kind of story, I encourage you to download it for FREE this week on Amazon. I’ll put a link in the show notes.
And now on to today’s topic about mornings. In case you haven’t noticed, the topic of mornings, especially morning routines and rituals meant to maximize productivity, is having a moment. It’s quite trendy these days for people to talk about how they make the most of their mornings, describing all the things they do after waking up to set themselves up to have a productive day. From Hal Elrod’s book Miracle Morning to Laura Vanderkam’s podcast Before Breakfast, it seems like everyone who’s anyone has something to share about the value of morning. but this is really nothing new. As the old adage goes, An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon, in terms of getting things done.
I love mornings. I love to get up early, watching the sun come up, if possible. There’s something about morning that’s fresh and clean. I feel well-rested after a good night’s sleep, and my energy is as high as it will be all day. I also feel a tremendous sense of optimism early in the morning, like anything’s possible. Psalm 30:35 tells us that weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning. I have found this to be true. Problems that loom large in the middle of the night seems somehow diminished in the light of day.
I generally wake up around five a.m. and putter around for an hour, reading and writing in my journal. If I want to have a peaceful morning I find it helpful not to plunge into email and social media first thing, but it’s hard to resist that temptation sometimes. Another key is that, while I like to wake up early, I do not like to socialize early, nor do I like to get dressed and leave the house right away. I like to float around in solitude and ease into my day. After I’ve been up around an hour or so, my husband and I meet up for coffee on the deck in summer or in front of the pellet stove in winter. By then I’m awake enough to be suitable company. We talk about everything under the sun, and we have our daily devotional and prayer time together. After that I do my morning routine of house chores and exercise and then settle down at my desk. I try to reserve mornings for creative work, when I’m still fresh and rested. After lunch my energy flags, and I find that’s the best time to do more administrative or marketing tasks, or to run errands or see friends. But mornings are for writing and creativity, and I really try to protect that time, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. By evening time, I might have a second burst of creativity, but more often I’m mostly brain dead and will need a full night’s sleep to recharge.
Because I like to look back at how people in the past lived their lives, and I know you do too, I looked around for how others have spent their mornings and found the work of Mason Currey. Using biographies, autobiographies, diaries and letters, Mr. Currey studied the daily lives of creative people–artists, writers, musicians, inventors, scientists–through the ages, looking for clues to how they spent their time. A surprising number of these productive individuals were morning people. I of course was most interested in the writers. Octavia Butler, for example, finds 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning the best time to write. Like me, she started writing early because she was working a day job and found she was too tired to write in the evenings, but after sleep she was ready to write.
The famous playwright Lillian Hellman lived on a farm. She got up and 5 and helped with milking cows or cleaning the barn, then she had breakfast and got to her writing work.
Margaret Bourke-White was a pioneering photojournalist in the mid-20th century. In her autobiography she noted “I am a morning writer. The world is all fresh and new then, and made for the imagination. I keep an odd schedule that would be possibly only for someone with no family demands–to bed at eight, up at four.”
In the early 20th century, Edith Wharton wrote fiction each morning while still in bed, writing longhand on sheets of paper that she dropped onto the floor for her secretary to retrieve and type up. A visitor recalled that she wrote with “her writing board perilously furnished with an inkpot on her knee, the dog of the moment under her left elbow on the bed strewn with correspondence, newspapers and books.” Mason Currey notes, “Wharton always worked in the morning, and houseguests were expected to entertain themselves until 11 a.m. or noon, when the hostess would emerge from her private quarters, ready to go for a walk or work in the garden.”
And one of this podcaster’s favorite people, the doyenne of etiquette, Emily Post, woke at 6:30 a.m. and, while still in bed, set immediately to work. Her son remembered, quote, “She had improvised an arrangement which enabled her to get her own breakfast as early as she wished and while remaining in bed. A thermos of hot coffee, another small one of cream, butter in an iced container, zwieback and the dark buckwheat honey she loved were placed on a tray on her bedsitde table every night. She would breakfast and then, remaining in bed, write, edit copy, and plan her correspondence. .. No telephone calls, no visitors, no household interruptions were permitted to break in on her working time. After twelve she rose, dressed, and was ready and hungry for luncheon punctually at one.”
And the well-known Southern writer Eudora Welty also liked to write first thing, usually still in her nightgown.
For those creatives who were also parents, many of them got up early to get some work in before their children were awake. Others hit the desk as soon as the children left for school. Either way, they made the most of the limited time they had available.
Of course, not all of us are cut out to be morning people. A sizeable segment of the population are night owls, preferring to work late into the night and to sleep in late.
“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecc. 11:6). In a note about this verse Pastor John MacArthur reminds us, “The world is full of things over which one has no control, including the purposes of God. There is no virtue in wishful wondering, but there’s hope for those who get busy and do their work.” And I’ll add, whether you do it in the morning or evening or middle of the day. As for me, I’ll take the morning.
How about you? When do you prefer to do your most important tasks? Are an early-morning lark or a late-night owl? Drop by the show notes, or visit me on Facebook and leave a comment.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic you’d like me to address on A Sparkling Vintage Life, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com. Also, if you can take a few minutes to stop by iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts and leave a star rating, or even better write a quick review, that will help raise the visibility of this little show so that more of our kindred spirits can find it. And I’ll be back in a minute with today’s grace note.
Today’s grace note is the work of Mason Currey, whom I mentioned earlier. Specifically his two books, Daily Rituals and Women Who Work. Daily Rituals describes the working habits of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.
The second volume: Daily Rituals: Women Who Work, covers similar territory but specifically focused on women. Mr. Currey found that often the male achievers in his first book benefited from the support of wives or assistants who carried the burden of making daily life run smoothly so he was free to do his work. Women generally were the ones who provided that support for others, making sure that everyone gets fed and has clean shirts to wear and So the working lives of women creatives looked different enough from the men’s lives to warrant a second book. I’ll put links to both these books in the show notes, and hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
And that’s our show for this week. Have a lovely day, and tune in next week when I’ll discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
Last week I kicked off this little habits series with “getting a good night’s sleep” for good reason: to get your reading to experience a Sparkling Vintage morning!
Oh no, I can hear you groaning, she’s going to ask us to get up early!
I’ll confess up front that I am a morning person. I wasn’t always that way–in fact, family members will attest that I used to hate early mornings, especially as a teenager and young adult, but usually that was because I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. For the past twenty years or so, I’ve found mornings to be the best, most productive part of my day.
So what’s so vintage about getting up early? Pretty much the same thing that’s vintage about getting a good night’s sleep–it’s in keeping with the natural pattern of daylight and nighttime that the human body is designed to work with. It involves slowing down, even for an hour, the rush-rush pace of modern life. Mornings are full of optimism–remember Ronald Reagan’s chipper phrase, “It’s morning in America“?
“Discipline,” writes Richard Shelley Taylor in The Disciplined Life (1962), “will push its possessor out of bed when he yet has time to get to work without rush, which is much better than dawdling another half hour and then regretting it the rest of the day. Or she will make the bed and do the dishes in the morning, rather than allow afternoon hours to find her wishing she had, and maybe in tears because of the neglected housework that suddenly stares her in the face.”
Don’t get me wrong–this is not a sermon about the virtues of rising early. If you’re a natural night-owl or a shift worker, getting up early might be sheer torture for you. I’m not talking about a specific time of day–it’s about how you use the first few hours of your day, whenever they may fall on the clock. If your “morning” starts at 1 p.m., then merely adjust what I’m saying to suit your schedule. If you get a good night’s sleep, the time on the clock doesn’t really matter. It’s your attitude that matters. The point is to try to rise early enough that you move through your daily preparations at an unhurried pace. There’s absolutely zero elegance in racing around like a mad fiend because you’re late and the kids are hungry and you can’t find your car keys and you really should exercise but there’s no time, no time to say hello, goodbye, you’re late, you’re late, you’re late (to paraphrase the White Rabbit).
Okay, that we’ve gotten that out of the way . . .
While reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, I was inspired by the many creative, prolific individuals who did their best work within a few hours of rising, including Henry James, Igor Stravinsky, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Maya Angelou, P. G. Wodehouse, Franz Liszt,Franz Schubert, Flannery O’Connor, Victor Hugo, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Charles Dickens.
(To be fair, there were plenty of “afternoon people” as well–James Joyce, Samuel Becket, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, among others–and a fair number of night owls, too, like Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould, and insomniac Louis Armstrong.)
These days my morning routine includes making coffee, reading the Bible, praying, writing in my journal, exercising, and getting myself ready for the day. My husband and I also spend an hour together, drinking coffee, reading aloud, praying together, and just talking. This simple routine starts my day off on the right foot. And the nice thing about having a routine that’s pretty much the same every day is that I don’t have to think too hard. I just do it, and by the time I’ve finished, I’m energized and ready to begin the day.
The specifics aren’t important. Your morning routine might look completely different from mine. The point is, are you making the most of the earliest hours of your day? Are there things you could do to make them more peaceful and productive?