I Can’t

“3 am is the hour of writers, painters, poets, musicians, silence seekers, overthinkers and creative people.

We know who you are. We can see your light on. Keep on keeping on.”

Author Unknown

We teach children to never say the words, “I can’t.” Do we ever reach an age where we are allowed to say those words? Because, frankly, I think I have earned the right.  

I have been working on my first book, Finding Joy, for two years now and have been editing it for so long that a few friends have said, “Oh, I thought you already finished that book.”

Since my Consistency Challenge post, (September 22, 2023) I have written almost every day. My intent was to write in the morning every day, so that if something else took my time later in the day, I would have already completed my most important task. Although I have had periods of success with writing in the morning, I have yet to make it a habit and I doubt my ability to make it as a morning writer. Like an alcoholic who wants to quit drinking, I long to be a morning person, but I just can’t make that happen.

As the youngest in my family, I never wanted to go to bed for fear of missing out on something. Back then, I didn’t know FOMO (fear of missing out) would become a psychological condition and I would be the poster child. Not having a bedtime wasn’t a problem until I turned five and had to wake early for school with the rest of the family.

Most nights from age 5-18 I stayed up with Dad to watch the 11:00 news and Johnny Carson. For you Baby Boomers, we often watched through the end of the National Anthem until we saw the snow—the official “time to go to bed” signal. Not surprisingly, I struggled to stay awake in school. Sometimes in high school, I skipped Johnny to study for a test or write a paper. In college, I hung out with my suite mates until they went to bed and then I would sit in the quiet hallway to study or write a paper.

When did I work on my dissertation? You guessed it. Research and writing happened late at night. By 10:00, I would plunge into hyper-focus and write with vigor, counting the hours before time for work. Nearly every paper—including my dissertation—I wrote in the wee hours. Now, as I type, my mantle clock just struck two times, and the sun is not shining through my windows.

Five months ago, I cut out sugar and caffeine. I thought that would fix me. On and off for years, I unabashedly used caffeine as a sleep substitute. Not consuming caffeine and sugar, I thought, would allow me to sleep better and finally get myself on a schedule like normal people. So far, it hasn’t worked. When I set the alarm and wake before my body says it’s had enough sleep, I don’t sleep well because I know the alarm is about to startle me awake and then I nod off in front of my computer. My mother told me and now studies have affirmed her wisdom by proving we get our best sleep from 10pm to 2am, yet that seems to be my natural writing time.

Last fall I read the book Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod, Steve Scott, and Honoree Corder—twice! The authors recommend setting an alarm, keeping a consistent schedule, and writing first thing in the morning. They suggest to first splash water on your face, brush your teeth, drink water and coffee—if you drink coffee—exercise, shower and then write while you are fresh. Authors Jerry Jenkins and Stephen King suggest similar routines. Jerry says he usually checks his email before he writes so he can then focus on his writing. Now, if I exercise, shower, and check email before I write, I’m ready to eat, which makes me sleepy. My morning writing routine promptly goes out the window.In If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, I’m the mouse.

I am like an addict who still believes she can drink like normal people. The age-old definition of stupidity rings in my head: “continuing to do what you’ve always done, expecting different results.” Is it possible for me to become a morning writer without going back to an alarm and caffeine and sugar? Or after over 50 years of trying, am I allowed to say, “I can’t?”

Do you have a similar struggle? Please scroll down and share below.