Thursday, May 20, 2010

Early vs. Late

I feel super, double-plus virtuous today. I was wide awake before seven, so I got up instead of letting myself go back to sleep so that I'd wake up really late, feeling groggy. Before 8:30, I'd had breakfast, read the newspaper, checked my e-mail, dressed and taken a walk.

But then, why does it feel so virtuous to get up early? Really, the measure should be how much is accomplished, not when it's accomplished. Even so, getting up early is generally seen as diligent, while sleeping late -- even if you worked late into the night -- is seen as slothful. I suppose it's a remnant of an agrarian society, where you couldn't work without daylight, and therefore if you slept a long time past sunrise, you really were wasting the day and doing less work. We do talk about "burning the midnight oil" as being a sign of dedication, but if you think about the literal meaning and origin of the phrase, there's an implication of wastefulness there -- you're using extra resources in order to do work at that time. It's supposed to be limited to work that's so important that it's worth those extra resources, not something you do every day. Meanwhile, why is sleeping late generally seen as slothful, even when it comes after a late night of work, in a way that going to bed early isn't? Go to bed at 2 and sleep until 10, and you're seen as a slug. Go to bed at 10 and get up at 6 and you're seen as virtuous.

Hee, next time I visit my parents, when my early-bird dad goes to bed at ten, I'll make tsk-tsk sounds and talk about laziness and wasting the good part of the day.

You'd think that among creative people there'd be more understanding of different work/sleep schedules, but I get the sense that there's still an undercurrent of "early is good, late is bad." In profiles of authors in writing organization publications, they'll often give a sense of approval or awe to the author who gets up and finishes her target page/word count of the day before breakfast, but there doesn't seem to be a similar approval for the author who works late at night, unless she's also having to get up early to deal with children or a full-time job. I have this theory that it tends to be those early-bird writers who do things like volunteer to write newsletter or magazine articles, edit magazines or newsletters and organize conferences. Thus, the breathless admiration of authors who get up before dawn to write and the conference schedules that have workshops beginning at eight. For these people, that's sleeping in, practically a vacation!

I seem to fall somewhere in the middle. I'm not truly a night owl. I don't like being out after 10 (to be honest, I'm not much on being out after dark), and I'm usually in bed by 11, maybe sometimes reading until midnight. Then unless it's a weird morning, I tend to sleep until 7:30 or 8. So, I'm too early to be able to really stay up like a night owl, but still too late for a normal workday kind of schedule.

I'm not sure what I'll do with the extra time today. My brain isn't in writing mode to jump into that this morning, and I'll probably get sleepy this afternoon, which could hurt today's productivity. I might be really fun at the homeowners' association meeting tonight because I'll be nice and crabby by then. Maybe I'll do some housework this morning, but otherwise, getting up early probably isn't going to improve my work productivity.

However, I was very good yesterday. Although I was working mostly on character development and pacing, I managed to cut more than a thousand words. In one case, after a lot of whining, I forced myself to really revise one scene so that it made more sense in context -- and I was surprised when it ended up being 200 words shorter. I guess adding conflict meant I got to the point more quickly.

No comments: