When Are You at Your Most Creative? #writing #creativethinking

Hello, SEers. It’s Mae Day on Story Empire, and I’d like to lead off with a question: When are you at your most creative? Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

Our internal clock works off the light/dark cycle of Earth, meaning our circadian rhythm operates on a twenty-four period. Some people have a slightly longer cycle (night owls), others shorter (morning larks). As children, most tend to the lark phase, then shift to owls as teenagers. As we age, we gradually transition back to larks, although that pattern is not true of everyone.

Science has attributed certain traits to both owls and larks.

Close up of eagle owl, large orange eyesOWLS
Night owls are better at focusing for longer periods on a specific task.
They have a slight edge on intelligence and possess more stamina.
They’re go-getters and impulsive.
By the same token, they are more prone to mood swings, yet are generally more productive.
When it comes to energy levels, owls experience bursts at peak hours.
An owl’s problem-solving ability is best at night.

photo of lark against a blue backgroundLARKS
Early birds are proactive.
They tend to be perfectionists.
Overall, larks are generally healthier, although they do require more sleep.
They wake at optimum energy level which gradually diminishes as the day wears on.
A lark’s problem-solving ability is best in the morning.

All well and good, but what about creativity? Surprisingly, several studies have shown owls are most creative in the morning and larks most creative at night.

Huh? (Yes, I know that’s a highly scientific question).

As a lark, I’ve pulled a few late-night sessions when creativity has me vomiting scenes onto the page. I’m not sure how else to describe my night-time writing stints. It could be because the analytical side of my nature­—which is at peak during the morning hours—doesn’t have to pause, analyze, and edit every sentence I write. At night, when creativity rules, I’m less likely to be critical. Which means I’d probably accomplish more if I wrote at night, then edited my work in the morning when my analytical side is sharpest.

Sounds like a happy compromise, right? Except for the third item listed under larks. We need more sleep. <yawn> Fortunately, another study indicates that habit and routine may be the winner hands down. Whatever your sleep/wake cycle, establishing a consistent time to write and sticking to it is great for getting your creativity flowing and keeping it in check.

Finally, let’s not forget those golden ideas that pop into our head in the middle of the night, or suddenly appear while we’re showering. Whether lark or owl, we can all say been there, done that.

So, let’s hear it—do you have a set time to write? Are you a lark or an owl? Is your creativity sharpest in the morning or the night? What do you think of studies indicating problems which require creative thinking (and I consider writing one of them) are best accomplished on the flip side of your optimum time?

Comments are open, so weigh in with your opinions and let’s chat. Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

72 thoughts on “When Are You at Your Most Creative? #writing #creativethinking

  1. I do most of my creative work, whether its painting or writing, at night. 1 glass of wine and I’ve got all of the creative flow I need haha. I guess that’s probably because once my daughter is down for the night I actually have the bandwidth to focus on something!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Kat. A glass of wine sounds like a great way to wind down the evening and open the door to creativity. How cool that you both paint and write and have a choice of which to embrace each evening after your daughter has gone to sleep. Sending you wishes for lots of creative energy. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Like

  2. Mornings, definitely. Probably as much due to the peace of 5:30am when everyone else is asleep, as to any peak in my creativity, although my characters always seem that much more bright and shiny too, especially if I have been dreaming about them. I write utter rubbish after 2:00pm!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! It’s hard for me to imagine you writing “utter rubbish,” Frederick, but I love the idea of your characters being bright and shiny in the morning, I never made the connection of dreaming stories or plotting while winding down for the night, but of course all of that would come spilling out in a colorful waterfall in the morning. That explains my pattern, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post is encouraging my self-introspection! I think I’m a lark regarding creativity, mostly because I’m just mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted by nightfall 😴 I don’t have a set time during which I typically write, but my thoughts are clearest when I first awaken 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Mekala. You sound like me as I am usually mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted by nightfall. That’s typical of larks who wake at peak energy and then fade as the day goes on. There are many times I get annoyed with that pattern, determined to remain up late. When I do, my mind does lots of creative wandering, but putting those wanderings down on paper is another matter, LOL.
      Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts!

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      • I’m the same way at night, my mind wanders but it’s because I’m beyond exhausted so I rarely write anything down. What kind of writing do you prefer? I love poetry and short stories

        Liked by 1 person

      • I write full length novels but I’ve experimented with short fiction recently and plan to release a collection of shorts early next spring. When it comes to reading I love it all—novels, shorts and poetry!

        I usually keep a tablet handy for notes, but there are times I’m too exhausted to write them down too!

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      • That’s smart, to keep a tablet handy. I have a notebook for that purpose but I rarely use it, I really should though. Congratulations on your collection, I would love to read them!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I wish I had an agent but haven’t managed one yet. For the last 7 years I’ve worked with both a small press and a traditional publisher, though we are parting ways after my December release (long story). During that time I did publish three indie releases in addition to the books I published through them. Moving ahead, I will likely seek an agent as well as indie publish, so I guess you could say I’m a hybrid author. I know many authors who indie publish books of poetry as well as novels!

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  4. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  5. I would fit somewhere between the Owl and the Lark. I keep trying to get into a writing routine where I do that first, then social media and email later. But, so far, I haven’t been able to get beyond my obsessive-compulsive need to keep my inbox below 50. I find that I am most creative when I put myself completely into that space regardless of the time of day or night. For me, it’s a mindset and being open to the nudges and ideas whenever they come. Great post, Mae! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jan. I know a full inbox weighs on me when it’s all backed up and that can be a horrible distraction.
      I like how you place yourself in a creative space regardless of day or night. You definitely have a bit of both owl and lark inside 🙂
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And keep listening to those nudges and ideas. They always develop into excellent stories!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love your piece, I am definitely an Owl, I find that is when I most creative, I can typically write for hours into the night if I didn’t have distractions. I think you describe me and owls perfectly. Thank you for your excellent piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another interesting post, Mae. By nature, I’m a lark and I do need lots of sleep. However, I do most of my writing in the evenings. I have to juggle time between my day job and family life. Hubs works the evening shift, so I have a quiet house in which to write. If I didn’t have to work, I would probably do the majority of my writing in the mornings.

    I have been known to think of something a three in the morning and get out of bed to write.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I applaud you for getting up and writing when those ideas strike, Joan. Like you, I’m a lark, but when an idea strikes in the wee hours of the morning, the most I do is jot it down on a tablet by my bed. There was a time I wouldn’t have even done that, but I once trusted myself to remember a fab story idea in the morning and when morning rolled around it was gone. Now I know to make a note.

      Since you’re naturally a lark, those evening writing times gel with the theory of when you’re at your most creative. Go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s hard to say. I have insomnia and I also homeschool my daughter, so I basically write when I can. Generally speaking though, I have the easiest time writing after I’ve had breakfast, so maybe a lark?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d have to say I’m an owl- I even blink like one if made to get up too early in the morning! lol. Most of my creativity comes at night. I’m the most productive from 10-1, and I NEED at least eight hours of sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you on the eight hours of sleep, Jacquie, but I can’t remember the last time I was u until 1:00 AM. Oh, wait, I do–New Years Eve. That’s probably the only time I see that hour, LOL.

      Loved your owl eye blink 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I would say I’m a night owl. I definitely am more creative when I first wake up and have all my ideas then. I work during the day, though.
    I find the more tired I am the better I edit because I’m less likely to hang on to everything, especially things that shouldn’t be there. I used to require the sleep of a lark, now I don’t seem to or can’t. Great discussion Mae:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those early morning ideas are great. I tend to get most of mine then, too. I’m surprised that you’re able to edit when you’re tired. I can see how it would help not getting hung up on everything but I’m not sure I could force my mind to function, LOL.
      I still need my 8 hours of sleep, but I remember a time when I need more. Now even on weekends, I’m up by 6:30 or 7:00 when i used to sleep into 9:00 or 9:30.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, Denise!

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  11. The comments are most interesting. I would say, I am both. I have some time in the early morning, and more time late at night. Sometimes I get lucky and have a good spurt while at lunch. I do not follow any routine, I should, but I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a lot of it is finding what works for each person as an individual. It sounds like you’ve done that, Michele, even if you don’t follow a specific routine.
      It’s great you can be creative from start of the day to finish! 🙂

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  12. I’m more like a plough horse. Not an early bird or an owl any more. I’ve just trained myself that when I put my fanny in my writing chair, it’s time to write. My husband worked second shift for 19 years, so I had to do most of the kid stuff when they were growing up, and I learned to work around whatever happened in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you on planting the fanny in the writing chair and getting down to the task at hand. That’s how I write too, but I’ve made it into a regular routine.
      That aside, I’m still a lark. I remember the days of staying up to all hours of the night. Now I’m yawning by 10 o’clock, LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hmm… given our similar sleep patterns, I seem to be an elephant. Maybe that’s why I have so many trunk novels. (Sorry; I had to say it.)

    I’m not sure what I am. I’d love to sleep more but can’t seem to get more than three or four hours. (11:00–2:00 is my deepest sleep). By 3:00, I’m usually saying my rosary and morning prayers, and by 5:00 I usually have coffee and watch some news. My brain isn’t really working until then. Then I clear email and social media, and I can get down to writing. (Today, unfortunately, did not follow that pattern, and now I’m off my schedule and out of sorts).

    I love your theory about your creativity spiking at night because your analytical mind is functioning during the day. That’s probably an ideal schedule for an author with a day job.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, but a few of those hours aren’t productive. I’d rather be sleeping during them than zombie-fied. But it is what it is. 🙂

        I heard somewhere Tesla only slept a couple hours a night, and he was wildly productive and incredibly intelligent. Of course, he also went a little crazy, so… do with that what you will. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I loved the trunk novel reference 🙂

      It amazes me when I hear of people who are able to operate on so little sleep. My old critique partner averaged 4 hours a night. George Armstrong Custer got by on 3-4 (sorry…I’ve read entirely too much about him and Crazy Horse and had to throw that in there). i don’t know how you do it, especially if you do it night after night.
      You certainly have an established routine and they say that is key to being productive. Given all the writing and editing you do, that proves the point! 🙂

      I think I could do wonderful things writing night. Unfortunately, I’m usually in bed too early to accomplish anything!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. And here I thought I was more of a wolverine, just plowing my way through everything. I suppose mine has to be the lark. I’m at my best in the early morning. I used to set an alarm for 4:00 on Saturdays just so I could write. The voices in my head never turn off. Day or night doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve taken to making notes about future projects, then taking to good ones and making a storyboard. Interesting post, and it makes a degree of sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a lark, too, though for many years the opposite was true. You, however are a LARK of larks, because there’s no way I could crawl out of bed at 4:00 AM and accomplish much of anything. I think even the analytical side of my nature would be fuzzy then in addition to the creative side.

      But I can relate to those voices in the head. Mine never shut off either. I’m just better at making sense of them at certain hours of the day.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Morning. I have a routine and the same breakfast 6 days a week so I don’t even have to think about what will I do today… I will sit down at the pc and dig in. Now that I’ve trained myself to do this, I often wake up with scenes in my head and can’t wait to get up and write them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Kayelle! Another vote for larks. It sounds like you’ve doubled up by using your lark creativity with a consistent writing routine, and the latter pretty much trumps all. I’m like that on weekends,with set hours for writing, but still have a day job during the week. I like your breakfast pattern too. It makes things that much easier.

      Enjoy the wonderful and creative writing day you have ahead. Thanks for popping in to share!

      Like

  16. I am definitely a night owl. My first two books I wrote on an evening and into the night. Finding Katie would drag me out of bed in the early hours with the ideas raging until I’d written Katie’s story, lol. However, more recently, life and necessity have forced me to write during the daytime. I have found that habit and setting word-count targets are producing excellent results. Interesting post, Mae. Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/when-are-you-at-your-most-creative-writing-creativethinking/ 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Harmony, it’s so interesting that you were/are a natural night owl but you’ve adapted to a consistent routine of writing during the day. Everything I read on the subject of larks, owls and creativity agreed consistency and habit gained the highest marks for productivity and creativity. There was a time many years ago when I thought you couldn’t be creative on demand. Then I started a consistent routine and realized I COULD be creative when I needed to be by adapting regular hours for writing. I haven’t moved onto setting a word count goal yet, but that might be next.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: When Are You at Your Most Creative? #writing #creativethinking | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

    • Throw exhaustion (or not feeling well) into the mix and I’m pretty much worthless when it comes to creativity, too.
      I guess it comes down to whatever works for each of us. However you manage your writing time, Charles, you certainly get a lot done judging by all your releases!

      Like

      • Jobs can really take a toll on writing. It’s hard squeezing it all in during the day. Only more month of summer to go (if you don’t wait for the autumn equinox). Here’s hoping you find plenty of writing time when summer is over!

        Like

    • Oooh, very intriguing. Writing in the morning and photo editing and creative designs at night. It sounds like you are, perhaps, a bit of both an owl and a lark. Then again, you have a set routine which makes everything that much easier to embrace.
      And I like that you start your day on a creative note and end it on the same.
      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting that you’re a lark, Robbie, but don’t need to sleep in (unless you’ve developed that routine). I don’t know that i could be creative at 5AM, but I am up by 6:30 or 7AM most mornings, including weekends. I know it’s hard balancing a day job and writing time, but it sounds like you have a good routine!

      Liked by 1 person

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