Daily Archives: August 31, 2011

Night Owl, Morning Writer by Johanna Harness

I begin my writing day every morning at 5AM.

Never in my life have I considered myself a morning person.


I can’t stand anyone speaking to me first thing in the morning. At a breakfast gathering, I’m the one slouching and staring into my coffee cup, avoiding eye contact lest someone expect actual conversation from me.

I’ve practiced saying that line my whole life:  “I am not a morning person.”

Yeah, so that turns out not to be the case.  No one who knows me in real life can believe it either.

My late night hours began as a teenager.  I needed nights for one basic reason: I am an introvert. I needed space.

Growing up, I shared a bedroom in a smallish house with one bathroom.  No one had space.  I did what I had to do:  I outlasted everyone else.  In a family full of night owls, the last person would go to sleep between midnight-thirty and 1AM.  That left two hours between 1AM-3AM for me.  I had the living room and kitchen to myself.  I made cream puffs.  I wrote poetry.  I danced.

Then, early the next morning, I stared into my coffee cup and avoided eye contact.

It became a vicious cycle.  The more I craved alone time in the middle of the night, the more obnoxious mornings felt to me.  I couldn’t imagine anyone who would wake in time to see the sunrise–on purpose.

Then a funny thing happened: I became the parent of kids who are night owls.  I cannot outlast them. From the time they were born, they would outlast me. We would all fall asleep cranky and, the next morning, they would stare into their Froot Loops and I would stare into my coffee.  It turned out staying up late wasn’t worth it without the reward of being alone and we developed new routines.  Now we’re all night readers.  We tuck in early and read quietly together every night–each of us inside our own cone of silence–snuggling, but not talking.

When I started writing every day, I turned to early morning hours the same way I once turned to the stillness of the night. In the time between 5-7AM, my house is blissfully quiet, just as it used to be between 1-3AM.

I’ve discovered, however, that the magic of the early morning hours extends well beyond the magic of the late nighttime hours.

Dark mornings contain essential stillness. In these hours, I breathe well knowing my roof does not leak, my house is warm, and food fills the cupboards.  The presence of dreaming children contents me.  I see their fluttering eyelids and I know this blissful, stolen time is a time for dreams, written or otherwise.  It’s a time for deep imagining, a time to believe in the power of words and stories, a time to focus on the aspects of humanity that run deep.

I’ve discovered something so profound about mornings that I’m certain I knew it all along: mornings are not normal times of day and they should not be approached as if they are.  Mornings are a time when dreams break gently into reality.  Mornings are sacred.

Mornings are a perfect time for writing.

I still need my coffee.

I still do not speak.

But I am definitely a morning person.


Posted by on August 31, 2011 in inspiration, writing


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