Humans are by nature creative. We like taking a project and seeing it through from beginning to end. It gives us a feeling of pride and a sense of accomplishment. As creative people, we yearn for a time we can set aside to engage in our passion. Whatever it may be, we want to be able to become fully immersed in our project.
This is especially true if you are a writer or painter. These are very solitary styles of expression, and interruptions do not bode well. When we’re not able to focus our minds on the task at hand, the work suffers. We become distracted, and the muse leaves us.
As a result, it’s good to have a schedule of your choosing. Whether you find the freshness of a new day to be inspiring, or you seek solace in the nighttime, either option is fine. But it should be a time you know you can devote to the creative activity of your choosing.
I, myself, prefer night. And by “night,” I don’t mean ten or eleven o’clock. For me, this is after the clocks strike midnight, and even later than that if I’m feeling especially productive.
I find that working late at night aids my thought process because I’m no longer distracted by the duties of the day or any worries I might have about how my day is going to go. Everything is behind me, and I can focus on what I want – at a pace that suits me.
Writers, artists, and other creative types are, by nature, egotistical. It’s almost a prerequisite. You have to have some belief that, not only are you good at what you do, you have a reason to carry on with it and not give up. So by fulfilling the requirements of your day, you free up the night to focus on you. This is not a bad thing, and I’d argue that a healthy dose of ego is far from the worst quality for a creative person to possess.
It’s a lonely profession to toil at, regardless of when you toil at it. Creating art has never been the most people-friendly activity, and it’s typically during the day when “normal” people (as in, those of us who aren’t of the neurotic self-obsession so common to artists) want to go to the park, visit friends, have a steak at a local restaurant. I’ve found this is a bad time to set aside anyway; doubly so because, the older I get, the fewer friends I make of the night owl persuasion.
So I set aside the time I’m going to be up and bored to focus on my work, and I use the waking hours of the day to hang out with friends and do the things most of society typically does.
Another benefit to working at night is making compartmentalization of your life easier to manage. You’ll be free to take care of business activities and other required duties and be certain that your writing or art did not interfere with what you have to do to be a functioning adult. I’d much rather not have to take care of duties as they come up, but I don’t get the sense many people enjoy them, either. They’re not exactly designed to be fun.
One question I can imagine many people have at this point: what if I don’t have any time at night? You might work two jobs like many people do these days. You might have kids or some other commitment that takes up all of your “free” time.
As for that, I suppose engaging in your passion in the after-hours is a bit tough to manage. In this case, I’d say to try to still do it, but be sure the time you pick doesn’t interfere with the things you don’t really have a choice in deciding whether or not to forgo. The only reason I’ve recommended nighttime is that I find it calming and conducive to making real progress.
In fact, I have personally known (and counted among my friends) plenty of people who find that the warmth of the sun and the peace of the morning rejuvenates them. Waking up fresh from sleep, perhaps over a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal, they are at their most productive and thoughtful.
Whatever works, I say. It’s all about finding the system that benefits how you prefer to express yourself. And it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that you need to stick to. If the inspiration hits, it hits. Don’t ignore it just because it’s too early or too late to work. But as a general rule of thumb, it’s obviously best to get into a general pattern of when you’re optimal creative hours are.
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, find the system that works for you, and roll with it. Don’t let them tell you it’s not the right one.