In photography, the golden hour (sometimes known as the magic hour) is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky. In medicine, the golden hour is right after a traumatic event. The first hour after the accident is when the patient is most likely to see the greatest recovery. For me, the golden hour, or my magic hour is before sunrise, when the telephone doesn’t ring, the kids are still sleeping and the demands of email can be forgotten until after nine.
I recently read Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s blog where she explains why it took her so long to write her latest book, The Spawning Ground. She suffers, as many of us do, the busyness of mid-life. Aging and dying parents, children to look after, work to get done to feed the family. All of this leaves little time for writing. We’re lucky to get an hour a day.
When I was younger and single and just starting to write, I was a night owl. I could stay up to all hours doing what I wanted, when I wanted and struggling to wake up in the morning. Perhaps the night owl is a hangover of our teenage years? No matter, it is what it is. After having children, I tried to write at night as I’d always done. But more often than not, I would end up slumped over my pen, head nodding, while I tried to remember what I was saying. It didn’t take me long to realize if my writing was putting me to sleep, what would it be doing to my reader!
Plus things come up in the evening: meetings to attend, writers’ group, book groups, and the occasional yoga class. And if I’m at home, the kids need me and the whole bedtime routine. So many things to knock me out of my “designated writing time”. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and enjoy our life together, but sometimes I would feel resentful, looking after everyone else and never finding time for me. I’d reflect back on my single life and all the hours I wasted. Oh, to have that luxury now!
So I trained myself to be a morning person. I know people will say they are either a morning or night person but I think we are more creatures of habit. Unless, of course, you’re a teenager! Their bodies are apparently wired to stay up late. Although my oldest daughter has been telling me for years she’s nocturnal, long before she was a teenager. But I digress. The body gets used to a schedule, so you can retrain and I did. The most important part in this process is going to bed early! This wasn’t too much of a problem as I was tired, always. The biggest battle was not filling my night with all the activities I mentioned above. This takes training too.
But eventually I came to a place where I can get up early, approximately five am every morning, and go to my space to write. This change to my schedule has made a world of difference to my writing life. It may not be much, but I can get in a consistent hour, at the least, before I start the rest of my day.
Why is this the best hour, the magic hour? It’s morning and I’m awake. In fact, it’s my best energy of the day which I give to my writing practice. I never double-book myself at five in the morning, the phone doesn’t ring and no one is waiting for my email response. And when it comes to the many tasks to be done around the house, I just think to myself, I’m not getting up at five in the morning to do laundry! So cleaning guilt doesn’t interfere with my writing either. I do have to resist turning on the wifi to ensure I don’t get sucked into the hole of social media, or reading the newspaper.
And all the resentment is gone. No matter what happens in the rest of my day I’ve had time for myself and my writing. So I work with my hour or so a day, plodding along. Occasionally I get more time, usually on weekends. In fact, weekends are a great time to set up for the writing week ahead.
From Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s blog: “My mother always said that a woman could count on life calming down after the storm of her forties had passed, and she was right. I now understand why women writers so often produce their best work in their fifties. The kids are grown, or well on their way, stepping out into their own lives. The house is quiet. The day is sunny and clear of domestic worry. A clean page awaits, and we have a new story to tell now, one tempered by our own maturity.” http://www.gailanderson-dargatz.ca/cms/index.php/blogs/from-gail-s-desk/32-the-desk/278-gail-reads-from-the-spawning-grounds
As my daughters turn into teenagers and become less demanding, I can see more time opening up, more time for me and my writing. But now evenings are filled with driving to different activities, helping with homework, folding laundry. So I go to bed early, wake up early and smile through it all (or most of it) because I have written.
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.” Rumi
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