Friday, 3 August 2012

When, Oh, When?

Quite often I am asked ‘when is the best time for a person to be creative?’ My first thought is to answer ‘whenever the mood strikes you;’ but that isn’t always possible and it goes against the idea of having a regular time that you dedicate yourself to your creative project.
Many creativity experts recommend first thing in the morning and there is a lot of good reason for that. For one, if you get up early enough, it is a relatively quiet time; fewer things are going on not only in your household but the world in general. Working at such a quiet time can cut down on distractions.
Also, first thing in the morning you are rested and therefore more mentally alert (although for many of us that may be questionable until after a couple of cups of coffee). After six to eight hours sleep you would be more rested  than you would be at 11 p.m. after a day of work, family responsibilities, the hustle and bustle of day-to -day living – all the demands that drain your physical and mental energies. When your physical and mental energies are drained, so are your creative energies. So often I hear (and feel) ‘I’m too tired to write/paint/sew/etc.’ Therefore, finding a time when you are well rested just sets the scene for more productivity.
Another good reason to work first thing in the morning is that we are the closest to the dream state at that time, which is an incredibly creative time for our minds. Ever wake up in the morning with a really great idea? Or awake in the middle of the night with the answer to a problem you’ve been wrestling with for days? The brain is at its freest point in the dream state and it doesn’t stop working just because you have. There are countless instances of people from scientists to dancers coming up with great ideas in their dreams or shortly after waking while experiencing that in-between land of sleep and consciousness.  
In fact, the creativity coach Eric Maisel suggests that you pose a question to yourself before going to sleep that has to do with your creative projects. By giving your brain an ‘assignment’ during the night, it can play with the ideas without any filters or blocks that you would impose during your waking hours. This will take a bit of practice to be able to tap into the answers, but once you learn to be in tune with this process you will quite frequently wake with an idea or find that it is easier to come up with solutions in the morning having slept on them.
Another reason for doing your creative work first thing is that it then sets precedence for how you feel for the rest of the day. You may not get anything else worthwhile the rest of the day, but you did write for an hour that morning. Having that sense of having tended in some way to our end goal of creating will help you have an attitude of accomplishment which helps keep you coming back to the creative table and just makes you feel better all around. Also, it does make it easier to tend to the non-creative things in life if you know you’ve already indulged in that passion first thing.
For some people, early morning creating isn’t a possibility. For myself for many years there wasn’t a question of getting up any earlier. I was already rising at 5:30 because I had to get kids ready for school and then get myself to work by 7:30. And, usually because of my responsibilities I didn’t get to bed before 11 p.m. and really needed the rest. But I did do a great deal of creative work during those years albeit not the same sort of creative work I do know. I adjusted to what the demands were; we have to have that flexibility to allow ourselves to shift what we do with what our circumstances are.  I couldn’t work on things every day but found ways to carve out times for that creativity when and where I could.
Before I had a family, I preferred working on creative things late at night and not rising early. At that point in my life, it worked for me. Now, even though I could sleep till noon if I wanted, I’ve found that it does work better for me to rise early and tend to my creative things first even if I may chose to then spend the rest of the day doing creative work. That time is enhanced with having gotten a good start.  I don’t always manage to do that because sometimes the devils procrastination or distraction get me and then have to spend the rest of the day trying to fit the creativity in or find that when I do get to it, I don’t feel fully energised. So, it does work better for me to just get in there and do it right away.
Knowing how your energy level works is important. Some people are night owls and their lives are set up to accommodate that--their creativity and energy height is late at night. For others, the peak time may be mid-afternoon or earlier in the evening. If you’re not sure when your peak energy times are, try keeping a diary for about a month gauging your activities, when you feel most creative, when you are able to work on your creative ideas, and when you have the most energy. Knowing yourself you can fit your creativity schedule to fit your situation and your energy style.
But if you haven’t ever tried doing creative work first thing in the morning and there are no extenuating circumstances preventing it, give it a try and see how things go. You just might catch that creativity worm that the early bird seems to get.

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