Good people often rise late. Keep the noise down, we’re trying to sleep
There’s me, and Simon Cowell, and Proust and Churchill ...
Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946) – “For too long it has been assumed that to achieve great things you must rise at an hour unseen by Keith Richards since Alec Douglas Home was prime minister. This is not the case.”
There are few more withering feelings than the nausea that overcomes a fellow when he finds himself agreeing with Simon Cowell. The mahogany talent wrangler has been discussing his domestic habits with Esquire magazine. “I think being creative in the morning is virtually impossible,” he said. “I’ve never had a good idea in the morning. That’s why I wake up about 11am.”
One can only imagine the fury of creativity that descends upon Cowell after that hour. Hats are selected for confused members of One Direction. The unsaleable dance act that won Britain’s Got Talent has its cage cleaned. Where does he find the time to impregnate his friends’ wives?
Anyway, the important point is that a hugely successful, hard-working professional has come out as a night owl. For too long it has been assumed that to achieve great things you must rise at an hour unseen by Keith Richards since Alec Douglas Home was prime minister. This is not the case.
Marcel Proust rarely woke before the Belle Époque’s version of Cash in the Attic had ended. He then spent the day scoffing fried potatoes while writing a book that, though languid and snobbish, conveyed (through weight alone) its author’s mighty capacity for industry. Think about that the next time your mum harangues you for eating chips in bed.
Winston Churchill, who enjoyed the odd vat of port before collapsing in the small hours, would, still wrapped in yards of dressing gown, actually conduct meetings in his mighty bed.
It is, of course, only fair to trigger Godwin’s Law and admit that Adolf Hitler also liked to get up late. Big deal. We’re not making any sort of moral argument here. We’re merely suggesting that it is no more difficult to achieve if you begin work after lunch than if you attack your desk many hours before breakfast. You can’t say Hitler didn’t get things done. Obviously, most of those things would better have remained undone. But done they were.
The average early riser will, however, invariably cloak himself or herself in moral superiority. According to the aphorists of old, nobody ever got healthy, wealthy and wise by staying up late and rising after the milk had arrived. Society accommodates itself to this supposed norm. Offices crank up in the morning and wind down in late afternoon. Schools do the same.
To question this principle is, apparently, to invite immorality and sloth to spread about the land. Grass will work its way through cracks in unoccupied parliament buildings. Crocodiles will prowl hitherto cosy suburbs. You’ve seen Mad Max II. Is that what you want for society? No? Well get out of bed and do some work then.
This writer has, when offices allowed, always kept to the same schedule enjoyed by Proust, Churchill, Hitler and Cowell. As a confirmed misanthrope, I greatly enjoy being awake when most other people are peacefully asleep and out of the way. On those occasions when early mornings must be endured, they attack the system like a relentless virus.
Vision is blurred. Speech is difficult. Almost everything – bathmats, anoraks, door handles – takes on the character of an enemy. The world’s looming catastrophes seem that bit more insoluble. One’s own mortality feels more pressing. Spanish students appear more determined than ever to get in one’s bloody way.
Here’s where we encounter a degree of hypocrisy from the dawn moralists. The fact that rising early is difficult confirms its value as a measure of moral impeccability. If it were easy then it wouldn’t be worth doing. So goes their argument. Yet evangelists in this area – as opposed to those who are honest enough to complain about being forced to greet the dawn – will also go on endlessly about “the best time of the day” and “the crispness of the morning air”.
You’ve heard all this baloney. If you genuinely enjoy an experience then you don’t deserve any commendation for putting yourself through it. I don’t expect anybody to admire me for watching Russian game shows at two o’clock in the morning. No medals are demanded for my bravery in avoiding any encounters with larks or postmen.
Look before you leap out of bed
If a recent report that’s almost certainly nonsense isn’t nonsense then we have conclusive proof that night owls are, in fact, more productive and more efficient than those who leap up early. The document from the University of Madrid confirmed that “those who preferred to stay up late demonstrated the kind of intelligence associated with prestigious jobs and higher incomes.”
So there. Of course, that doesn’t make us better people. But good people do sometimes rise late. And bad people often curl up early.
Now, could you keep the noise down? We’re trying to sleep in here.