I’ve been blogging for a few months and I’ve started to notice an astounding pattern emerge. I happen to write some of my most creative and entertaining pieces in the wee hours of the night. I’ve always been somewhat of a night owl, but could there be something more to it?
1. Peace and Silence
With each day comes many distractions. From phone calls, to unwanted messages on Facebook, to the general stresses of the day, something about all the commotion just seeps away at our productivity. Maybe you have kids screaming in your ear all day or maybe you’re an entrepreneur like me who manages a bunch of projects and employees; either way, everyone needs something from you. Sure I get things done during the day, but these tasks always feel like mundane responsibilities that need to be begrudgingly knocked off. There is a certain peace and quiet that sets in with the nighttime that always seems to spark my creativity and passion.
2. Your Guard is Down
It’s true you are likely to be more tired come the night and many nights you will end up passing out from exhaustion as soon as the sun sets. But those days when you do make it to the other side, from the light to the darkness, can prove to be quite rewarding. And sometimes when you’re tired you tend to let down your guard and say what you really want to. As the clock ticks, the imaginary wall you’ve built around yourself slowly crumbles away.
3. Rants are Authentic
And when your true feelings come out they can take on a long rant-like form. You have a lot to say and, like a sponge, you’ve been holding your thoughts in all day. The nighttime is your time to unwind, toss inhibition out the door, and let your creativity shine (just ask our editor, who generally sees some of my more eye-opening pieces fly across his desk near dawn). Despite, or perhaps because of, their impromptu nature, these rants typically go viral when we publish. These rants are fresh and they take risks, unlike the same verbatim social media coverage we see across every major news outlet in the world.
4. Nighttime is Exciting
There is a reason people are excited to do things at night. When the sun goes down people like to hit the town with friends – but what about hitting pen to pad? Some may be more inclined to hit a bottle of wine or a joint instead, but it turns out, with moderation, that might not be the worst thing for your creativity!
Photo via Rachel Carter
5. Studies Show Being Tired or Drunk Can Make You More Creative
When it comes to standard analytical problems common in the workplace, being able to focus and ignore irrelevant thoughts and ideas is paramount. So don’t show up at work tomorrow drunk! But when trying to solve more creative problems, however, you’re better off broadening your horizons. Have you heard of Ernest Hemingway? He’s perhaps even more famous for his heavy drinking than for the classics he wrote. He seemed to grow ever more brazen with each sip.
To demonstrate this scientifically, check out two studies of brain teasers that looked to test cognitive dissonance when under slight impairment:
1) Your task is to move a single line so that the false arithmetic statement below becomes true:
IV = III + III
Did you figure it out? In this scenario, the solution is rather obvious: you should move the first “I” over to the right side of the “V” so the statement becomes VI = III + III. To little surprise the vast majority of people (92%) are able to quickly solve this problem since it requires a standard analytical problem-solving approach where only the answer is altered. What might surprise you is that 90% of patients with brain damage to the prefrontal lobes, which can be simulated by being tired or drunk leading to severe attention deficit, were also able to find the right answer.
2) Now try a much more challenging equation to fix:
III = III + III
It turns out, only 43% of normal subjects could solve this problem where most of them just stared at the Roman numerals for several minutes and then just gave up. However, the patients who couldn’t pay attention too well actually had an 82% success rate. What lead to such a strange turnaround for the “brain damaged” patients? Well, the explanation is rooted in the unconventional nature of finding the solution which calls for moving the lines around that make up the plus sign, transforming them into an equal sign (simply put, III = III = III).
The reason this puzzle is so difficult, at least for people without brain damage, has to do with the standard constraints of math problems. Because we’re not used to thinking about the operator, most people quickly fix their attention on the roman numerals. But that’s a dead end. The patients with a severe cognitive deficit, in contrast, can’t restrict their search. They are forced by their brain injury to consider a much wider range of possible answers. And this is why they’re nearly twice as likely to have a breakthrough.
This doesn’t mean you should take a hammer to your frontal lobes or drink yourself into a stupor before attempting any creative endeavor. There are, however, some upsides and unexpected benefits of not being able to focus – something that triggers your imagination to think differently!
And it just happens we are more likely to be tired or cognitively impaired at night. I’ve noticed such a drastic change in the creative style of my writing in the dark that I now schedule my scribblings accordingly. I take care of my business and serious posts during the day, and try to feed my creativity at night. And with all the supporting evidence, consider yourself now enlightened too!
A slice of starry night via reddit
Are you a morning or a night person? Try and push your boundaries and change things up. Either way, some of our greatest eureka moments come when we are out of our element, when we least expect it!