The other day a friend and myself were emailing each other and one topic that came up was whether we were morning or night people. His business requires him to get an early start. He works outside and once the sun sets the work day has to come to an end.
I’ve always been much more of a night person and find I get a lot done after most sane people are long asleep. When I thought about it more I realized it was a certain kind of work I get done late at night and wondered if there was a reason why.
Once the stars are out for the night and and a tiredness begins to creep in I find myself getting much more creative.
Late night work for me tends to lean toward the aesthetics of design and problem solving. I’ve often observed similar behavior in others and think that tiredness might have something to do with late night creativity.
Inhibition Prevents Creativity
When you’re tired you often lose inhibition. Perhaps the voice of reason takes a nap before the rest of you calls it a night, but I find myself more willing to try something new or different after hours.
Ten or so years ago I was still living in New York and most of my friends were creatives of one type or another. We were writers, artists, and musicians who worked during the day and got together after midnight for one kind of jam session or another.
Those sessions would start slow, but as the hours went by the creativity began to flow. Much of the best work came shortly before sunrise and close to the time when most of use were past coherent thought.
Admittedly other factors were in play. Let’s just say oxygen wasn’t the only thing we were inhaling, but again that goes towards a release of inhibitions leading up to our most creative moments.
Success Involves Taking Risks
Most ideas fail. Successful people know that and are willing to take chances on ideas to find those that stick. Inhibition keeps you from taking chances. It firmly plants you in the safe and moves you further away from remarkable.
Through a lack of fear and a lack of inhibitions some people will take a chance on something new. The more ideas they act on the more they increase their probability for succeeding with any one idea.
During the Renaissance, Florence, Italy was an important port city where many different cultures met and ultimately shared ideas. One very wealthy family supported the arts leading the area to become the intersection for creative ideas of the time. The Medicci Effect (pdf) describes the how the intersection leads to creativity and original ideas.
People take risks at the intersection. They’re dealing with the unknown and the unknown is never without risk. An inhibited person doesn’t spend years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
It’s easy to play it safe and to become part of the herd. You might even be able to carve out a small niche within the flock, but followers are not influencers and followers fail to gain our attention most of the time.
photo credit: desi.italy
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
I’m not a risk taker by nature. Like most people I find it easy to fall back into comfortable patterns and routines and find I need to challenge myself to move away from the safe and known.
The other day I mentioned taking a chance on signing up for Teaching Sells and being very happy I did.
Earlier this year I picked up and moved to a new domain. I was nervous and apprehensive thinking I could lose subscribers and see my search traffic tank. I took a chance and in the end came out with what I think is a better design on a better domain and a more focused business.
Lately I’ve been working on the development of a WordPress theme as an entry point into the premium theme market. It’s another chance I’m taking. I’m putting in a lot of work (late at night of course) and may never sell a single theme. If that happens though I’ll take what I’ve learned and apply it to the next idea.
There’s no guarantee that taking a chance will lead you where you want to go, but I can guarantee if you keep doing the same thing you’ll end up in the same place every time.
Are you playing it safe in your business? When was the last time you tried something new on your blog? What could you do to free your inhibitions and call forth your creative muse?
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Don’t know if I’m an early or morning person but I am more creative at night after being stimulated by the days events. I’ve also written in a totally uninhibited state and later discovered it wasn’t my best work. I totally agree about taking risks and am certainly not a sheep. I do however display sheep like behavior from time to time 😉
It’s interesting how we all have different times of the day when we’re most creative. Maybe for me it’s simply that I’m more of a night person.
It’s why I asked the question on Plurk. I was curious if others found late night or early morning to be their most creative times.
Sometimes the uninhibited stuff isn’t the best. That’s true, but I think you’ll find that some of your best work can come from there too. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting out the not so great stuff first or going back later and realizing there’s something good there that needs to be molded a bit.
Baaaaaa. Yeah we all display sheep like behavior at times. It’s the rare person indeed who’s always leading.
For me, the switch to the right side of the brain is dependent upon stimulation, rather than time of day or state of mind.
I’ve never used chemical stimulants so I wouldn’t know about their effect.
With a good grasp of technical aspects, the left brain can freely feed the right brain and allow creativity to flourish.
Makes sense. I think the tiredness aspect for me keeps the editor at bay while letting the muse roam freely. Kind of an addition by subtraction sort of thing.
I wouldn’t recommend chemical dependents as a way toward creativity, though I’ve seen it help some people. I’ve also seen the very negative consequences it can lead to as well.
Creativity always pops up for me when I’m in the middle of something – very focused on finishing it for whatever reason. Sometimes whatever creative thought I’ve just had applies to the project I’m working on – like the other day when I was working on a wide sampling of possible logo designs for a client – my best design came to me as I was finishing up so I freed up some space on the sheet and added it. Other times my creative thought has nothing to do with what I’m working on, but instead is for something else I’m trying to figure out – like how to fix the curtains in my daughter’s room, that thought came while I was trying to figure out the chords for a song on the keyboard.
I’m a risk taker and I’m not afraid to suggest or try something and see how it works out – I figure that if I don’t try, I’ll never accomplish anything and usually whatever the final/best answer is comes while we’re trying ideas and possible solutions not while we’re sitting around talking about the problem or the goal we want to accomplish.
sorry for the long comment 🙂 Maybe, I just talk too much… You’ve given me an idea for a blog post though so thanks!
That’s interesting. I think there’s a connection between your most creative moments and mine. When your working on something else your ‘editor’ isn’t reigning in the muse. I think that’s what happens to me when I’m tired.
No need to apologize for a long comment. I like long comments. especially when you have something to say.
When your post is written feel free to stop back here and post a link to it.
When I was younger, most of my creativity came at night..into the wee hours of the morning. I wrote better poetry and lyrics and thought more clearly.
Tiny things are needed in order to enhance that for me today though..On a cool night, windows open to a cross breeze, lighting bright, music playing..I can wonder into that younger days zone and do the same..
Emotions also encourage late night creativity. There have been many things lately that have gotten me down. It’s more difficult to write while I’m feeling sad. But, when agitated, I certainly don’t have any problem with flow..although, as David also said, it is not frequently my best.
When I am stimulated by happiness, my creativity is positive, nurturing, free flowing like an endless river, and even childlike without boundary. I write better, sing better, research better, and so on..
Oh yea..baaaa…is my newest ‘ick’ word. 🙂
Do you think the open windows and other little things remind you of the times when you were younger and so put you into that creative state more?
It’s interesting you say feeling sad makes it more difficult to write. I used to find that made me write more and I know a few people who do their best work when they aren’t feeling their best emotionally. I guess it depends on what you have to say though. The poems I wrote when I was feeling down came easily, but weren’t exactly the happiest poems in the world.
That’s what it is for me when I’m tired. The lack of inhibition is akin to a more childlike state. I get too tired to realize how far I might be going and just go with it.
First, it’s odd to hear you say you’re not a risk taker because I’ve always thought you were. Guess our perceptions of ourselves can often differ from what others think of us.
I tend to get most creative at night, probably because, as you said, I’m less likely to worry about what other people might think. I also get interrupted less at night, which means I have more time to follow a thought to its conclusion.
Interesting post. I think you may be on to something here.
Funny that you think of me as a risk taker. By nature I’m not. Maybe I’ll take calculated risks, but there’s often more calculation than necessary going on.
It might be that as I’ve gotten older I’m more aware of my natural aversion to risk and understand that for the most part the consequences are never as bad as you imagine. It gets me to take a few chances I might not have in years past.
For me it’s not the lack of interruption since I’m pretty goof and controlling that, but I definitely censure myself less and spend less time editing when I’m tired and less inhibited.
Hey, I found this by googling “tiredness creativity” because it’s something I’ve noticed a LOT in the last two years while I’ve bean reading physics.
Sometimes we get concepts or problems which require really obscure, non-obvious steps or metaphors and I’d say that more than half of the conceptual breakthroughs I’ve had in the last 2 years have come after 1am, last night I could suddenly see in my head where I’ve been going wrong on a quantum problem question and then 2 minutes later realised a metaphor for gaussian variance.
Your reasoning is also the same as mine- when I’m tired my brain is more relaxed and open, I get out of the rut where I follow the same path over and over.
I’m torn on whether to try taking some drugs (LSD, grass, alcohol?) to recreate the effect.
I’d say that yeah late night your brain hits it’s lower-wave states like theta and delta so you start hitting to more right-brain level of unibited thought.
MDMA is the best for creative work, weed is ok but can run into paranoia, so be careful. Speed is a good all-rounder and Ketamine can be good to rush through those creative blocks we all hit from time to time.
Healthy living, Alcohol and drug use can all serve the creative purpose just as long as they’re intended for creativity and not anything else.
A. Jay Leggate
The late night thing seems to be true for a lot of people doesn’t it?
I understand you about the different drugs. Not sure I’d recommend people experiment with drugs in order to improve creativity, though I can’t say I’ve never done that myself. I think most anything you can get from drugs and alcohol you can get without them and having gotten there without them you end up in a better place in both life and creativity.
That’s not meant to be a moral thing on my part. People should be allowed to live their lives how they want. It’s just that in my own experience getting there without the extras ends up leading to better work.
Maybe that’s specific to me and to each his own.
Good call Steven,
Personally, I choose good healthy living over drugs and alcohol mostly because it’s more balanced and stable in terms of overall effect- with the big high the big low is soon to follow etc.
However creativity seems to come from observation and one’s unique perception. No matter what your choice of mind-regulation/alteration may be, creativity is ultimately made up of your own experiences.
With that in mind, to say that drugs are good or bad is merely giving something a label- a judgement and means nothing in terms of the results of your creative work.
May The Floors Beneath you!