How to Unlock the Secrets of Your ‘Creative Clock’

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night owl creatives

“Creativity is intelligence having fun” ~ Albert Einstein

Recently during a night of mind-hopping induced sleep deprivation, I ironically stumbled upon this article; it reports that individuals with higher intelligence are more inclined toward ‘Night Owl’ behavior. Having always tended toward this particular habit, I of course clung to this rather flattering reasoning with an ounce of encouragement (or delusion) that maybe I was just too brilliant to sleep’. Some weeks later I happened upon a similar article which further argues that working on problems (for the sake of this blog lets assume they are creative ones) during ‘off peak’ times is often more effective than when we are dedicated and focused on the task at hand.

This left me wondering if maybe this was something that could be explored further on a more individual level. So I want to pose to you these two questions:

Do you know when your ideas are most likely to come about? And do you have steps in place to harness this potential?

In recent months while I’ve been chipping away at my first novel and gathering ideas for this blog, my brain has been dutifully assembling ideas piece by piece. So I took extra notice of when ideas often hit me and have pinpointed this pattern.

My ideas occur:

A)   Around midnight when I should be shutting my eyes

B)   During my regular walks with my Pug friend Ollie and his Terrier housemate Maggie.

C)   While I’m driving… This is easily the worse and most inconvenient of the lot.

So I must say for me, the points these articles make seem to hold true.

My next conundrum was to find a way that I could best use these times to capture my ideas while successfully managing to get some sleep and not steer my car onto a lamppost!

ollie the pug maggie the terrierWhile I’m sure I’ll be forever negotiating what works best, here are a couple of techniques I have developed that do work:

  • Writing it down:

    A practice anyone who works with ideas should be disciplined with, I have a number of apps on my phone and online calendars which I use to track as well as break down my ideas. I will tell you which ones these are on a future post though of course good old-fashioned paper and pen work too.

  • Schedule it in:

    Further to the above point once I have noted my idea I will try to schedule in a more opportune time to flesh it out. Initially I only need to get the idea down and I now know I don’t always need to be awake till 3am writing that whole chapter (Though I do sometimes let myself anyway). Being consistent as an artist means you don’t always have to wait for a time when you ‘feel’ like creating, you just get it done.

  • Always listen to your ideas even if they’re rubbish:

    I once read that if you tell your mind that what it comes up with is worthwhile, it will thank you by developing a continuous stream of ideas. What this means is that if you can shut off that inner critic long enough to record your ideas down, rather than instantly saying ‘no, that will never work!’, you give your subconscious mind the confidence to pitch in ideas more often. Imagine you had a co-worker who constantly told you to ‘shut it’ every time you spoke up; eventually you’d just stop talking to that person. Your mind works in a similar way, be kind to it. You can always review your ideas later and if you’re still not impressed, simply hit delete.

  • If you don’t have the answer now, leave it and trust it will come to you:

    I’ve often taught dance classes and had students ask ‘how do you learn to do that?’ and sometimes the answer is as simple as this; I don’t know. I’ve had times where I’ve worked on a move everyday but couldn’t get it, then one morning I’ll wake up and it just happens. I think this goes hand in hand with giving your mind space to mull things over and I find this is the case with much of my work, including my new book. I’ll often have an idea but not know how it fits, a few days later the answer just comes without explanation.

  • Collect Inspirational Material:

    Just as much as this post is about being open to ideas and when they happen for you, you’ll find that at times you will stumble upon articles and images that trigger something for you. Don’t just rely on or clatter your brain trying to remember where you saw it, do what I do and create spots to store these materials. I have a number of places I copy and paste Internet links, or store images that inspire me. For example if I see an image that looks like a character from my book then it will be saved where I can easily find it in future.

With all that said my task to you now is to reflect, collect and notice when your ideas are coming to you; give them the attention they deserve and see what happens.


Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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Image credits: OSU Special Collections, Ollie the Pug and Maggie the Terrier (yet to build an online presence)

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