Excuses are easy to come by at five in the morning. It’s dark, for one thing. And you’re probably supercomfortable. Plus, rising at such an ungodly hour, honestly, it sort of hurts, doesn’t it? And will anyone even know, or care, if you shut off the alarm and catch a little more sleep before the day’s machinery kicks into gear? Before the dog needs walking or the kids rousing—schedules to keep, responsibilities to meet—don’t you deserve a little more rest? Seriously, why do it to yourself? If you’re a working writer you already know the answer. But that doesn’t make the 5 AM alarm any easier to hear.
That is why it’s so gratifying to read Camille T. Dungy’s “Say Yes to Yourself: A Poet’s Guide to Living and Writing”. When her agent, Samantha Shea of Georges Borchardt, sent it to me, I had just started a new daily routine of waking up ninety minutes earlier than usual and cramming in some work, before work, on a long writing project. (It’s called The Poets & Writers Guide to the Writing Life, and since it’s on my mind nearly every waking moment nowadays, you’ll likely be reading more about it in this space, so stay tuned.) When I opened the essay Shea had sent and read Dungy’s first sentence—“It was 5:30 in the morning when I began writing this”—you can imagine how my interest was piqued. And she kept it, for more than six thousand words in which she encourages and inspires, addressing in a down-to-earth voice, humane and human, many of the real-world challenges of writing and living as a writer. Like waking up early, making time to write, being aware of your own methods of self-sabotage, and trying not to, in her words, “tend to your own modes of distraction.”
Another writer who is clearly winning the battle against distraction is Paisley Rekdal, who may just be the hardest-working poet in Utah. Her powerful new book, Nightingale, out in May from Copper Canyon Press, is the latest in a fast-growing body of work by the poet, nonfiction writer, writing program director, and Utah state poet laureate. As she says in this issue’s profile, “Shadow Narratives” by Renée H. Shea, “It’s getting to an almost comical level of busyness.” But all that work pays off.
Yes, there are plenty of excuses to sleep in, but the authors in this issue give us many more reasons to wake up, get going, and start writing. So, turn off the alarm and turn on the light: Good morning, and good luck with your work.