6 A.M. is for Slackers: How to Wake Up an Hour Earlier without Feeling It

Written by Brendan O’Meara

There’s something to be said for waking—and WORKING—before the sun rises, before the world rises, before texts and emails start flinging in at you.

I wake at 5 a.m., but that’s not good enough. 4 a.m., as I see it, is the final frontier. I do my best work early in the morning and there’s something to be said for getting a good, solid two hours of work in before most of the world wakes up.

But how? I mean, you COULD just set the alarm one hour early and dive in blindly, cut yourself from that hour you’re used to sleeping. Or, with patience, you can ease into it. If you give it 12 weeks, three measly months, you can wake an hour earlier and find the extra time to _____________.

I’m in the middle of my plan to wake at 4 a.m. and while challenging, I find it relatively painless. Here’s how:

I was waking at 5 a.m. due to a day job. That was my baseline time. Yours could be 7, 6 a.m., whatever.

On Sunday night set your alarm clock (I use my phone), so that it automatically goes off at the same time every morning without any extra needed attention. If you normally wake at 6 a.m., set the alarm for 5:55 a.m.

Do NOT hit the snooze bar. Put your feet on the floor IMMEDIATELY.

For seven whole days, you wake at 5:55 a.m. Week 2, 5:50. Week 3, 5:45 and so on for 12 weeks, or 60 minutes.

But there’s a key, a real quandary once you have banked an extra 15 minutes. You need to have a plan for the time. If you don’t, you’ll either go back to bed, hit the snooze bar, or sit on the couch (which will cycle you back to the sleep you’re trying to avoid).

After 12 weeks, you will have seamlessly found an extra hour in your day to write, to paint, to knit, to read, to watch movies you never felt you had the time for, to WHATEVER. That’s up to you.

In a few days I’ll be cresting 4:30 for 4:25. It’s hard. It’s like adding 45 more pounds to the barbell for squats. You start to feel its gravity.

But what buoys you through is finding that extra time. It was there all along. All you needed to do was uncover it.

Then, if you ever want to sleep in, you’re original baseline time will feel late. Bonus.

Podcap—How Gimlet Media’s ‘Surprisingly Awesome’ Teaches You To Pitch Stories

Written by Brendan O’Meara

For my first podcap—a recap of podcasts I’m listening to—I’m taking a look at the latest from Gimlet Media.

Gimlet Media released a new podcast, Surprisingly Awesome, featuring Adam McKay and Adam Davidson. Google their names if you want vital bio information.

This podcast tries to take something seemingly boring things like mold (Episode 1), free throws (Episode 2) and concrete (Episode 3) and illustrate how, you guessed it, awesome they are.

So far, all three have been, you guessed it again, surprisingly awesome, but there’s something more, something deeper this show represents that’s important to all storytellers and freelancers. It’s this: So what? or Why do I care about ­­­­ ______?

The podcast is, in essence, an elaborate story pitch of why something apparently mundane is, in fact, interesting, and worthy of our time and worthy of a publisher’s dollars.

In all three instances one of the hosts is bored while the other is excited. Like a defense attorney pleading his case for his client, he tries to sway a biased jury. No change of venue. The other host is the permanent venue so get over it.

Also at the core is this central statement, one created by Gimlet co-founder Alex Blumberg: I’m doing a story about X, and it’s interesting because of Y. You can take AB’s Creative Live course and learn all about this.

For the latest episode on concrete, AD could say, “I’m doing a story about concrete, and it’s interesting because natural disasters, like the Haitian earthquake, aren’t really natural disasters, they are concrete disasters.”

The story suddenly gets green lit because that is interesting. You feel it in your bones. Cheap concrete shatters and in poor, developing countries. The cheap concrete breaks like brittle when the earth rumbles.

This podcast, aside from being entertaining, is a master class in getting writers to probe deep into a mundane topic and find what is ultimately sellable about the story.

I host #CNF and would love for you to listen and subscribe. Also, throw down your email so you can updates from this website when I post something. No posts, no emails, no spam, ever.

#CNF Episode 13—Greg Hanlon on the Audacity of Voice and the Value of Struggle

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 8.32.54 PM

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“Putting in the work is confidence building.” —Greg Hanlon

“You struggle and struggle until the end product comes close to your original expectation. It’s all about the struggle.” —Greg Hanlon

Greg Hanlon is a crime editor at People Magazine and also a freelance sports writer. His piece “Sins of the Preacher” was anthologized in the Best American Sports Writing 2015 edition. His “The Many Crimes of Mel Hall” was a notable selection.

That’s called a hell of a run!

In this conversation we hit up a lot nuts and bolts and also what Greg looks for in a story before he goes all in.

He’s a pro. Here are links to Greg’s work:

Sins of the Preacher

The Many Crimes of Mel Hall

The Sordid End of David Meggett

And, of course, the link to the episode as well as the media player. What a world!

Be sure to give the podcast a subscribe and share it with friends you think will enjoy it. As always, thanks for listening!

Hashtag #CNF Episode 12—Sarah Einstein on writing an other-person-centric memoir, Jane Eyre, and Count Chocula

Sarah Einstein, author of "Mot: A Memoir"

Sarah Einstein, author of “Mot: A Memoir”

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“I never imagined that I would write this book. I never imagined actually that I could write any book. The idea of book-length work terrified me.” —Sarah Einstein

“I believe you have to give memory time to mellow and age and become a narrative.” —Sarah Einstein

Man, it takes me a long time to get out new episodes, but I hope it’s worth the wait (assuming, of course, you’ve been waiting…Humor me, would you?). I upgraded to a pro account so that means I have a financial incentive to pump out more episodes!

I also forget how long it takes to edit and throw together show notes. Hey, it’s a fun hobby and like I’ve said before, it’s an excuse for me to talk shop with writers I admire and maybe writers you’ve never heard of. You can say you knew them when they were on that little #CNF podcast. Like Carrie Hagen or Joe DePaulo.

Here I’ve got Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir, a book that explores the friendship between Sarah and a homeless, mentally ill man named Mot (Tom backwards). He’s a brilliant, fascinating, resourceful man and an unlikely source of stability for Sarah during this period of her life.

In any case here’s the streaming player and notes from the show:

People mentioned:

Kevin Oderman
Dinty Moore
Sara Pritchard
Maggie Messitt

Books Mentioned:

Safekeeping and Three-Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Jane Erye by Charlotte Bronte

Subscribe to the show and sign up for the weekly newsletter from this very website. What a world!

Looking Up

Written by Brendan O’Meara

As some of you may or may not know I started a menial day job as a landscaper to help fund what it is I do. Some people teach and my fear is that teaching would embitter me and entrench me not unlike the main character from Michael Chabon’s wonderful Wonder Boys.

Sure, it takes a thirteen-hour swath out of the middle of my day, but wouldn’t teaching? Sure, the dream is to be a full-time freelancer, but that will come with a little extra hustle in the spare hours around the day job.

The day job I do have has some perks (I’ve lost 20 pounds in two months). I also get to see rockin’ views of the Freedom Tower and some as simple as the bluest of blue skies.

More stuff coming, but he’s a short list of what I’ve been reading:

The Reappearing Act by Kate Fagan

Writing for Story by Jon Franklin

The Best American Sports Writing, 2014

Also, be sure to check out Hashtag #CNF. I’m hoping to line up my next guest soon. Hint: It may be someone mentioned above.

Keep thriving,.

Your buddy,

Carrie Hagen on Finding the Essence of Story

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Written by Brendan O’Meara

It’s been a long time and there’s a reason for that.

I have since started a full-time job landscaping. I just completed my seventh week, so it’s no longer an entirely new thing. Many writers need to fund their writing habit, but most teach. I’m not sure I could teach and write, but that’s a topic for another time.

The subject at hand is Carrie Hagen, author of We is Got Him. She and I met at grad school where she began fleshing out the story for We is Got Him. It’s her first book, but you’d think it was her third or fourth. I’ll let her do the talking.

As always I’d love for you to sign up for email updates (they arrive on Tuesdays if they arrive at all). Also be sure to subscribe to the podcast that way you’ll get the latest episodes of Hashtag #CNF beamed straight to your favorite audio device.


Catch Up on These Three Latest Episodes

By Brendan O’Meara

There won’t be a new episode this week since my guest, author Carrie Hagen, couldn’t speak last week. No prob. She’s the author of We Is Got Him. If you like Erik Larson you’ll love Carrie’s book. We’ll get into that later.

This gives you plenty of time to catch up on what you may have missed.

Here’s Maggie Messitt, author The Rainy Season.

Here’s John Scheinman, winner of the 2015 Eclipse Award for Feature Writing

Here’s Joe DePaulo, a 2014 Best American Sports Writing notable selection.

I need to buy more storage through my podcast host Podomatic and I’m having a hard time pulling the trigger on that. Money is tight, but I think the interviews are fun and educational. It goes to show you how deep the talent pool is out there. As I said in the intro to the Joe DePaulo interview, this is my excuse to talk shop with people I admire and promote their work in some small way.

Anyway, enjoy those interviews, subscribe on iTunes and please sign up for the weekly email newsletter that feeds your inbox with the latest podcasts and other tasty morsels. No spam, just useful stuff. You can always unsubscribe. No hard feelings.

Thanks for reading and listening. We’ll talk later.

Joe DePaulo on Talese, Cramer, and What It Means to be Edited

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“There’s no downplaying that moment for me. There’s no humble bragging that. It’s a straight-up brag, a measure of pride for me.”—Joe DePaulo

“I can’t abandon it. For me, I don’t know what else I’d do.” —Joe DePaulo

Maybe my favorite part of my conversation with Joe happens toward the end where we briefly touch upon drafting one particular writer in a Fantasy League for Narrative Nonfiction. I should’ve expanded on this, but I figure it’s going to be a much longer segment in the future.

This was a fun one. We talked about writers who inspired Joe and the harsh financial realties of the freelance game. (You can hear Episode 9 guest John Scheinman shed insights into this as well.)

I’ve shortened by Bookshelf for the Apocalypse segment to five books. Good stuff here.

Joe’s BftA

The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Character Studies by Mark Singer
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
The Best American Sports Writing of the Century
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer
Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow

Ricky Jay’s Magical Secrets by Mark Singer is a New Yorker profile Joe re-reads over and over again.
The Man Who Knew Too Much by Marie Brenner

Here’s Joe’s SB Nation Longform archive, which includes his profile on Mike Francesa, a story that earned Joe a notable selection in the 2014 volume of Best American Sports Writing.

So let’s get to it. Enjoy!

Hey, if you get a chance subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and throw down your email here at the website. I know that’s asking a lot, but it would mean a lot to me.

Also give a listen to some of the older episodes. If I don’t buy more storage, I’m going to have to delete them starting from the bottom, so be sure to download them soon.

Inside the Reporting Mind of John Scheinman

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“You know what? It’s like when you ask a girl on a date. How scary it can be. It’s terrifying sometimes.”—John Scheinman

“I was always a conversation person. I would literally say this, ‘I’m going to earn your trust and you will never be misquoted.’ They loved it!”—John Scheinman

Here we are again. Two weeks in a row! Not too shabby.

This week I interview my friend and colleague John Scheinman who won the Eclipse Award for feature writing for his piece about legendary Maryland horse trainer Dickie Small. The piece, titled Memories of a Master, is a long, sweeping profile that took John about three months to craft. Give it a read.

[Last week’s episode with Maggie Messitt]

We get into the use of voice recorders versus notebooks, something I find fascinating as different reporters use different methods for gathering information. We also talk about the anxiety that comes from having to interview people and I think that may be particularly helpful to others who feel the same way.

And, of course, there’s John’s Bookshelf for the Apocalypse, the books he’d keep in his survival pack that he could never part with should the world melt down around us. He is the second person to say this is a stupid question in two weeks. Does that mean I should give it up? Not yet. If next week’s guest says it’s stupid maybe I’ll consider.

John’s Bookshelf for the Apocalypse

The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell
Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell
The Honest Rainmaker: The Life and Times of Colonel John R. Stingo by A.J. Liebling
Life by Keith Richards
The Great Deep: The Sea and Its Thresholds by James Hamilton-Patterson
Blues People: Negro Music in White America by Leroi Jones
Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story by Nick Tosche

Thanks again for listening. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and sign up for email updates. They come once a week ONLY IF I POST SOMETHING. Then you can fish around for what you may like in that email offering. Thanks!

I’m already running close to the end of my storage capacity on Podomatic. In order to upgrade, I need to pay for it. I’m asking that if you think the show is worth $1, give a $1, if you think it is worth more, donate more. As money comes in I can afford more storage, better equipment, and make a better product. Thank you so, so much!

Many thanks to new subscribers

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Philanderer’s Corner. #madmen

A photo posted by Brendan O’Meara (@brendanomeara) on

I want to thank all the new subscribers who submitted their emails. I hope you choose to stay aboard the bus, but it is your right to unsubscribe if you feel you’re getting no value or entertainment from anything I post.

I am officially out of hardcover copies of Six Weeks in Saratoga. The final two copies went fast. I’ve reached out to you already if you “won” a copy.

Thanks again and stay tuned for what I hope to be weekly releases of the Hashtag #CNF podcast, book reviews, and other links to my work and the work of others I admire.

Keep thriving!