17 April 2012

the "write" time

When it comes to the ornithology of daylight, I am most definitely classified as a night owl. Never mind that, according to Discover Magazine, morning larks (in the world of daylight ornithology, it seems so unfair to call them “morning people”) might have a slight advantage by having sleep schedules that fit better with “the usual work schedule of society” … I embrace my sleep debt with open arms and a clutched body pillow.  

But this got me thinking about the creative process—particularly about when I get my big “a-ha” poetic moments, and I realized that mine tend to happen when I am dead tired: basically, when I am not at my best or not at my “peak” in the day. I’ve been writing a lot of 2am poems lately—and trying to write in the midst of the day, when I’m the widest awake, never seems to work.

Apparently, it isn’t just me (which is a relief): according to a March 2012 article from Scientific American:

A recent study by Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks suggests that innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms determine whether you are a “morning-type” person or an “evening-type” person … Circadian rhythms drive daily fluctuations in many physiological processes like alertness, heart rate, and body temperature. Recent research indicates that these rhythms affect our intellectual functioning too. (“The Inspiration Paradox: Your Best CreativeTime Is Not When You Think”)

In other words … shut off the brain filter and watch, with awe, what happens.

I have my own, totally unscientific, ideas on why this is. For me, I’m pretty sure it has something to do with literally zoning out—at that point when I’m tired but I still have something to figure out, my brain isn’t rolling through all the logical steps—it’s just rolling. I’m a little giddier, because all my common sense blockers have been shut off. Words sound prettier. Ideas seem a little easier, because I’m not telling myself, No, Khara, that doesn’t make sense. Things just … flow a little easier.

Apparently, we night owls even have our own clock...
But I also have my suspicions about all this. Because something tells me that the genius ideas and writings I come up with at 3 or 4am might not be all that genius—not when I actually have a few hours of sleep under my belt and can actually think. Maybe it just seems brilliant because all the filters are off, and common sense is on holiday, so I’m not thinking about how silly those ideas are. But I’m also not afraid to use language in strange ways, and the filters that tell me, No—you can’t write like that are temporarily sent packing.

So whether you’re a morning person or a night person (a firefly or a ladybug, a raccoon or … I don’t know, a puppy? I think a puppy can be the opposite of a raccoon), the question of when to write doesn’t really boil down to that: It boils down to when your mind feels the most open to the creative juices that want to creep their way through your ear canals and flood your brain with gooey goodness. And if it happens to be when you think you’re experiencing that “2:30 feeling” … So be it. Embrace it. And write on.

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  1. My "aha" poetry writing moments happen mostly in the evenings and at night. Thats the only time I can actually relax and let my mind wonder a bit (I've got three kids)Very interesting post!

  2. Thanks for the intriguing post, Khara! You've got me thinking about my "write time." I'm going to have to pay more attention to the time of day when my creative juices are flowing.

  3. Thanks for the comments! It's interesting to hear when other people find the "write" time for poetic a-ha moments! Dana I'd be curious to know if you consider yourself a "morning person" or a "night owl." And Romelle, definitely--it took me the longest time to realize/recognize that my "write time" happened to coincide with my sleep schedule!


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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