Monday, 4 February 2013

Making More Hours in the Day

 I’ve often wondered what life would have held had I been born a lark rather than a night owl. Surely I’d have a couple of novels under my belt, be fluent in Cantonese and possess an immaculately folded underwear drawer. Because although technically I am awake the same amount of time as your average early riser, when you’ve sprung out of bed at 5am you’ll be less inclined to spend the next two hours scrolling through your facebook newsfeed and watching re-runs of Glee. I am a night owl and it’s genetic. Nothing short of an early morning flight to somewhere hot with highly alcoholic watermelon-flavoured beverages can entice me out of bed before I absolutely have to. When I was a toddler the only way Mum could do the school run was by transferring me and my bed covers to our little orange Citroen Diane (AKA Mr Bump due to its lack of seatbelts and suspension) and driving around with me splayed across the backseats as though drugged. When it was my turn to go to school Mum took inspiration from that most popular movie of the day, Superman, meaning I would climb into bed sporting my Care Bear pyjamas, and emerge washed and fully dressed in my tunic, tights and blazer. Ta-daaa!
  I never grew out of it, of course, because, as I said, it’s genetic. But anyone who accidentally wakes me before the allotted time is no longer met with the kind of blind rage that could boil a cup of tepid tea. I’ve come to accept that getting out of bed before I’m good and ready is a simple fact of life. I spend the first 20 minutes of everyday a walking hazard: my limbs behave as though I am being operated by a drunken puppeteer, I bounce off worktops and door handles, my tongue and brain refuse to work in unison, and loud noises and bright lights prompt me to squeeze my eyes shut tightly and sway on the spot. By the time I switch on BBC Breakfast I am too traumatized to even sigh. And so starts another day.
  And then last year at Swanwick Writers Summer School I met the lovely Jackie Buxton, also a night owl – she can’t change, it’s genetic don’t you know. Erm, except she did. Because while I was clawing my way around my bedroom at 7am trying to find the shower, she had been up for two hours, been for a run, eaten breakfast, made herself look utterly gorgeous, and no doubt written another chapter of her book (which she has now finished). She called it ‘Larkism’ and had been practicing it for a couple of months when we met. If she could do it, she assured me, anyone could.
  I’d love to say that I took this advice and now, five months on, bounce out of bed laughing with glee at the thought of never having seen 5am on purpose, ready to complete a circuit of 100 squats and lunges, clear my inbox, wash down the bathroom and digest the business section of The Guardian before breakfast. I did not. Instead I decided that Jackie had in fact somehow had her genetic molecules scrambled (perhaps through proximity to a meteor strike or bite from a radioactive spider) and therefore was the one exception to the ‘can’t-change-a-night-owl’ rule. The ONE exception. Meaning statistically speaking there was no point me trying.
  This morning, I took a jaunt over to her fantastic blog Agenthood and Submissionsville, however, in which she happened to be talking about how her larkism is still going strong. Needless to say, she is now on her second novel, sings in a choir, teaches three creative writing classes, is learning a foreign language, keeping fit, and finding time to be a wife and mum. Surely there are not enough hours in the day? Oh yeah… got it now. So this week, I’m seriously contemplating Larkism. Because there really are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do (ie get all Cath Kidstony with my sewing machine, all David Bailey with my camera, all Audrey Tatou with my French and all Jackie Buxton with my novel). I’m contemplating Larkism in much the same way a person might contemplate voluntary root canal surgery – I know it will do me good, but can’t quite see beyond the butt-clenching pain. Hmm…. any others of you done it? I need persuading...


  1. Oh Cate, I laughed so much at this post, I just had to read it again! I'm really not sure I recognise the Jackie Buxton you describe - just because I'm up at 5 doesn't mean I'm actually dressed before lunch time. (I do aim to clean my teeth before 10, though, you'll be pleased to know.) But I can vouch for her being the Facebook trawling, you-tube clipping, random tweeter who had to leave herself a note to remind herself to get up in the morning - kind of night owl you talk of, the one who kidded herself that she was actually writing anything other than drivel and in twice the normal length of time after midnight. And yes, that Jackie Buxton is so happy she discovered Larkism!
    I'm interested to see if you find any other Owl/lark reformers. I did when I first posted about it, however, I never came across a single person who'd managed the transformation the other way round. It would be difficult, wouldn't it, sitting bolt upright after 9pm, unpeeling your head from the keyboard in an effort to stay up, just to wake at birdsong, only to have to force yourself back to sleep.
    But, never say never, I wonder if 'Owlism' does exist somewhere.
    Go for it, Cate, let tea be your anaesthesia on waking and tell yourself you are not even going to think about whether it's working until you've tried it for at least a week. Good luck and keep us posted!

  2. Tee-hee, yes, I practise Larkism too, but ONLY because I'm more productive in the mornings. It's also a blood sugar thing, I have absolutely no doubt - eat as soon as you wake up and you're right for the whole day (works for me). But the super-productivity you speak of I would find totally exhausting. I loved the description about the bed-to-car transfer. My dad will tell you so many stories of me sleeping in the car until we arrived at some destination (I sometimes travelled with him for his work in other cities and towns) - once I slept for an entire ten-hour journey. Shortest car trip of my life :) I agree with Jackie completely - try it for a week and keep us posted! (And sleep in on weekends....)