Writing At Night

The creative process is different for everyone. Some people may write in the early morning hours while others carve out time during their day. Still, others feel that burning the midnight oil is the best way to get their words out. I fall into the latter category, since I began writing it seems that my best work and creativity make their appearance undercover of night. It’s just human nature really, some folks are morning people and some are night owls. The list of famous night owls is an impressive one, including Gustave Flaubert, Franz Kafka, and Bob Dylan.

As I attempt to close my eyes and fall asleep every night my mind just gears up and the words start pouring out. I usually grab my phone and start typing, I can’t let the words slip away, after all, I’m 42 sometimes they don’t come back.

I have quite a few theories as to why I can’t seem to get those words out at any other time. My kids are in school full time and my husband is off to work. During the day it’s just me and my puppy. So what gives?

Theory I

My mommy mind is at ease with everyone snuggled in their beds and I know I have the time to focus and get it all out, without interruption. At 11 PM I don’t have to stop to take the puppy outside, pick the girls up from school, or hit up the grocery store for tonight’s dinner.

Theory II

It’s residual conditioning from my college days. I worked in retail late into the evening and frequently came home to complete my assignments. I often found myself working to the wee hours of the morning. Rinse and repeat for four years.

Theory III

It is simply the absence of other stimuli. There is no noise, no light, just quiet and the darkness.

Science Explains It All

From the research I have done, it seems that theories 1 and 3 are backed by science. This is not a STEM blog so I’ll keep the science to a minimum.

In the past few weeks, I have been taking note of my creative bursts. I have ideas all day, every day. Thank goodness for the little computer in my hand. I’m a walker, I walk approximately 80 miles per month. During my walks, I get a constant stream of ideas. For example, just two weeks ago, the opening paragraph of an article came to me, while I was walking to the mall. So, naturally, I stopped on the sidewalk, pulled out my phone and started typing. Last week I had a great idea for pitching an article, right out of the shower. What do all of these things have in common?

I recently read an article on Buffer about a study that examined what sparks creativity. Long story short when we feel good and relaxed our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine combined with relaxation and distraction all work together to achieve that creative spark.

My mind hits its creative stride at night because there are no other stimuli, and I am relaxed.

Writer’s Block

As I am writing this article I started thinking about how this all relates to writer’s block (the bane of every writer’s existence) and the usual advice regarding how to get past it. From a writer’s perspective, we are always thinking of our next piece, the next article, or the next chapter. But as we all know sometimes the words just don’t show up to the party and we’re left staring at that awful blinking cursor. The advice I have always heard was to get up and walk away. Take your mind off of it and it will come.

In middle school, I learned that when we are trying to figure something out, our brain continues to work on the problem even after we have consciously moved on to other tasks. Putting it all together here, it all makes sense now. Staring at the blinking cursor will only compound that stressful, blank feeling. Walking away and taking your mind off of it will allow you to relax enough to spark your creativity.  

When asked about her writing routine, Gillian Flynn once said: “I’ve had some of my best writing epiphanies when I’m doing things that have nothing to do with writing.”

It all makes perfect sense…

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