Vanessa Garcia is a multidisciplinary artist working as a novelist, playwright, and journalist. Her debut novel, White Light, was named one of NPR’s best books of 2015. Vanessa currently lives in Miami, Florida.
What is your morning routine?
Four days a week, this is what I do:
I wake up at 6:00am, before anyone else in the house. While still in bed, I have a little routine that happens only in my head: I send grace to everyone I’m going to meet that day, one by one. I imagine them in my mind, and I send them a bunch of good vibes. I also say “thank you for this day.” The days I do this are so much better than the days I just spring from the bed.
Next I make my way to the living room, make up my gym bag (for later in the day - I always have to write before I work out), make a smoothie, and pack my lunch. Then I head out to my favorite café where they often have my “usual” - a cup of coffee and a Perrier - waiting for me. I sit at my regular table in a back corner of the café until about 10:00am. That whole time, I’m writing. Once 10:00am strikes, I let myself start troubleshooting, responding to emails, making phone calls, etc. By that time I’ve already gotten some really solid writing in.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve been doing part of this routine for at least three years; however, I’ve been doing specifically the above for about six months, since I stopped teaching and started writing full time. When I’m teaching, I do the same thing, but two days a week instead of four.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I used to be a lot more hardline about my weekday routine. I think structure is important, but I also think that too much structure is dangerous. I’ve found that when you try to beat life into submission, it tends to fight back. Life’s pretty strong, so it always hurts.
These days, I allow for a little more openness. The reigns are not so tight. I absolutely finish the work I need done, but if I want to wake up at 8:00am instead of 6:00am a couple of mornings a week, I allow myself. I figure my body is asking for it, and I let it happen. I’m considering having children, and I tell myself that I had better get those extra two hours in while I can (wink).
What time do you go to sleep?
I try to go to sleep by 11:00pm, but this really doesn’t happen very often. The reality is that I’m usually asleep by midnight, staying up a little later some nights than others.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I put the clothes I’m going to wear out in the living room to let my fiancé sleep a little longer - the poor guy shouldn’t have to suffer because of my routine.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I absolutely set the alarm. I get made fun of a lot because I have a million wake-up alarms in my phone. I’ve got 5:00am, 5:30, 6:00, 8:00, 8:30, 9:00… it goes on from there. Some days I have to set the 5:00am alarm and get up because I know I have to. Sometimes I set the alarm for 6:00am and just snooze.
One of my biggest goals in life is to not hit the snooze button, but I do it all the time. I probably do this because I’m too optimistic about what time I’m actually going to wake up!
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I have breakfast about twenty minutes after I get up. I’m usually hungry when I wake up. Even if I’m not starving, I still have breakfast. I love breakfast.
I usually make myself a smoothie with plant-based proteins because I’m a vegetarian. Sometimes I eat a banana with almond butter and piece of dark chocolate. Some mornings I’ll eat all of the above. On mornings I’m not hungry, I just grab a fistful of whatever nut is handy.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I don’t work out until I’ve gotten in some hours of work. I work out five to six days a week and tend to do yoga and swimming the most. For me those are mind/body workouts.
Sometimes I go for a run or a spin class, but I like yoga and swimming the best because they are meditative and they remind me to be a better person, or at least to strive to be one.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Unless it’s very important, I tend to not answer emails until after my 10:00am break. I do check them first thing though, just in case. I’m not yet wise enough not to do that.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Nope. I hate all sleeping aids. I try to be as natural as possible in that department.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Unfortunately, first thing.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
- I make sure I’m out the door early enough that the morning haze is still in me. That state, between sleep and the rest of the day, is important for my writing.
- I make sure to somehow leave a little love residue behind at home. I give my fiancé a kiss while he’s still sleeping, or I leave a note on our dry erase board on the fridge, or I put a secret note in his wallet.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Water, pretty much right when I wake up because there’s always water on my night table.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I totally change the steps during the weekend. I do work on weekends, usually one of two days, but I also allow myself to sleep in.
I try (this doesn’t always happen, but I try) to have one day during the weekend where I don’t set any alarms. Setting zero alarms is like heaven on the weekend, and I look forward to it - it allows me to get up at 6:00am on weekdays. I also let myself dawdle and shift the schedule around. If it’s a really beautiful day, maybe it’s a good idea to walk to brunch with people you love and forget the rest… You have to live.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, absolutely. I can literally write from almost anywhere. I travel a lot, and I always re-adapt. I actually love these in-between workplaces - airports and hotels. I often get my best work done in these spots because it never feels like work.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
On days when I really need to get a lot of work in, waking up late can mess with my head. Sometimes those days feel like disasters. When everything goes against my plan for the day, I do something like visiting my grandparents. That always puts things in perspective. Seeing people who love you and whom you love when they don’t expect it reminds you of what’s important. It reminds you of how little time we have; sometimes the best thing you can do is to not try to beat time but to slow down and enjoy it.
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