Early Morning Writing



Fellow blogger menomama3, Life in a Flash and Wuthering Bites, has asked that I share my writing process.


To begin with,

I get up early, my writing habit for years. It’s black outside except for one unobtrusive mercury vapor light at the horse barn, not a sound in the canyon. This is my time. No ringing phone, no demands from the outside world. My mind is fresh from whatever dream possessed it while I slept and relaxed. Often a dream lingers inexplicably, sometimes a day or two with vivid images and interactions or just a fog of feeling I can’t explain. But bottomline, my mind is all mine for a couple of hours.

Staring at a blank white sheet is not as intimidating as it used to be, and more often than not I already have a line strumming in my head, perhaps one garnered from my sleep. If not, because this is my discipline to write every morning, I have several collections from poets I admire on my desk that I may open randomly, and many on the shelf if the ones close at hand don’t help my inspiration.

In either event, the first line goes down. It may become the third line, last line, but in the process, that’s unimportant. By the third or fourth line of the first stanza, I’ll probably reorganize the first line anyway, or trash it altogether. I edit while I write, unlike many poets I know. My poetry is somewhat lyrical, and this jousting around in the first stanza or two, I think, is to set the meter or rhythm of the poem. I tend towards internal rhyme, it seems, and lean on it heavily to establish, or reestablish, meter.

I may approach the page with strong purpose, but most of the time I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and that’s the fun part. This grazing livestock culture relies heavily on metaphor, on personification, on anthropomorphic (new word, Suzanne?) explanations, and with that, a unique vernacular I also try to utilize in my poetry, as my own way of thinking.

I depend on details that I visualize to turn a line in a poem, a cause and effect, hands-on approach, and allow myself to feel the action, to become vulnerable and human, hoping to connect with readers beyond my world.

And why?

Reclusive by nature, the cattle culture has been under siege for generations. Hollywood has not helped our reputation, nor have a half-dozen well-meaning campaigns originating in town to oust us from the land, often in favor of development or other extractive industries. Our livelihoods are dependent on the renewable resource of grass. In it for the long term, we do everything we can to keep the ground, and our cattle, healthy. Land and cattle, we are one family, and that comes first.


come when time allows, I have several in my head: a chapbook with a working title of The Dry Years (surely to sell like hotcakes) and a perfect-bound, larger collection that will include the chap; also an eBook of photographs and haiku, when I can find a format as kind to the photographs as wordpress has been.


13 responses to “Early Morning Writing

  1. I’m glad someone asked…thank you for sharing this. I know I’ve read time and again about the good that comes from writing in early morning first thing (something I don’t seem to have the discipline for). I will look forward in anticipation to any book of photos you publish, and writing too. Your photos, especially, are an inspiration to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, thank you, Angeline. We do what we can. If I get nothing done the rest of the day, at least I faced it with the confidence and satisfaction of having a poem under my belt, some small accomplishment to begin it.


  2. Caleb Pennebaker

    I really admire your dedication to it all. I saw this post earlier this morning and have thought about it often through the day to the point where I came back and read it again.
    I can write when certain thoughts and images get stuck in my head and they will eventually rattle around and end up on paper but I can’t even imagine doing it so well DAILY and keeping it broad enough that anyone can relate to it.
    Thank you for sharing it all with us.


  3. I’m grateful you wrote this because I see things in your process that I find reassuring like the nagging line in your head and the fact that you don’t always know where you’re going with something. I think that’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing a poem – the surprising places one word, one line will take you. You may have convinced me to take up writing at the crack of dawn again. Thanks very much for doing this, John.


    • It was a good exercise, Suzanne. Frankly, I don’t think of it as process, or discipline any more, but what I do every morning like having your dessert first.


  4. Thanks for sharing your process & the lovely dawn photo.


  5. John – I am also working on a haiku/photography book project, and will shortly spend some time with another photographer who’s going to give me some lessons on getting photos ready for books (print and e-book). Please email me (melindagharvey@gmail.com) if you’d be interested in what I learn. And, good luck with your book projects.


    • Absolutely, Melinda. What little stumbling around I’ve done with different formats, none reproduce as well as wordpress. I’ve hesitated to spend the cash to go the Adobe route. Thanks for the offer, I’ll email you.


  6. John- this glimpse into the inner-workings of how you think as a writer would be interesting to include in your book. It’s inspiring, and gives an honest sense of who is behind the excellent pieces you author.


  7. Top o’ the morning to you each day, John. Thanks for the peek into the process, and for getting up so early to add to our days, too. The book ideas sound great — and MANY photos must be included! 🙂


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