Creative Insomniac: The Night Is A Friend To The Artist

It’s deep into the night, but sleep won’t come. You turn over.

Perhaps a different position will quieten the mind.

Or maybe the other side is better after all.

Not sleeping feels like a disaster.

For many people, what we do in the shadows of night does tend to fall under the realm of strange behavior. These people expect us to be a certain way – and we don’t want to disappoint them – because, and even though their expectations choke off the most important aspects of who we are. All the ideas that we’ve neglected during the day bubble into consciousness in the form of a vengeful insomnia, forcing us to return to the bigger duty, which is to ourselves.

In the silence of the dark, we slowly begin to untangle the tough knots in our stomach and therein, start to fulfill the undeniable urge to create. Only when we have produced something new will all of this anxiety dissipate.

Anyone with a creative mind will tell you that the best moments of his or her life is when they are in that zone of pure aesthetic, sonic or poetic bliss where the rush of dopamine floods the synapses as they create something beautiful and new. We call this most sacred of things the Creative Flow, the most precious modality of intellectual, (meta)physical and spiritual pleasure.

According to neuroscience, this is the moment when the ability to self-edit literally falls off the proverbial page as we shut down the lateral prefrontal cortex and transcend our super egos to enter the realm of the numinous to probe the parameter of possibilities: a sweet, momentary pause of cognitive dissonance. Muting the “reptilian brain” and amplifying the neocortex into a higher conciousness.

As Timothy Leary said: “In order to use your head, you have to go out of your mind.”


It is not surprising that many folks who venture into the artistic industries tend to be night owls and quite often they find it difficult to work a normal nine-to-five jobs.

This is not because we are picky or being unreasonable but because we prefer to work in the right state of mind where the creative juices can flow with ease.

Many artistic folks find the serenity of being alone in our own rooms at night to be the optimal state of creativity. We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night, it gives us an intimate session with the universe where we can investigate the bigger questions that have been manifesting themselves as background anxieties during the day.

According to academic Anne-Marie Willis‘s paper on Ontological Designing, “Everything we design in turn designs us back.”

It is perhaps the best explanation as to why, in the comfort of our own creative caves, the artistic mind is able to manipulate their conscious experiences to put themselves into that desired “flow” state.

The Ecosystem of Creativity

This idea that our environment plays an important role in our state of mind is the main subject of Alain de Botton‘s book, The Architecture of Happiness. Still, many would assume it is just an intellectual excuse to being a hermit, but those folks are also the ones who presume that creativity is a simple act of the imagination.

In truth, creativity is “a domesticated madness”, as Jason Silva, the host of National Geographic’s Brain Games, loves to say. The ability to imagine new worlds and create something new is more than just altering the old.

The journey to find new ideas is a sacrifice that the artist has to commit. He, or she, has to leave the consensus of the cultural operating system and dive deep into the realm where both the shamans and the schizophrenics reside; to bring back visions which create a phase change in the consciousness of society.

These virtuosos of the imagination, these ecstatic technicians of the sacred spaces of human virtuosity are all risking their own sanity in order to show glimpses of the other worlds that the consumers of art demand.


We, The Creatures of the Night

Night offers these cultural luminaries reprieve from the skepticism of those sensible others. After dark, we can leave the triviality of life and scramble the self to transcend the ego. The slow process of growth from the absurd and usually unimpressive schemes that every ambitious project begins with is harboured in the night.

At night, you are more sensitive to the stimulus of inspirational flashes from the creative forces which flow through you, as Khalil Gibran put it: “They come through you but not from you and though they are with you they belong not to you.” It is the best time for us to gather ourselves and compile our scribbles to create a work which best represents our subjectivity.

The night is a friend of the artist and we should not be too quick to escape the hands of insomnia, to, as another great dreamer famously wrote “…rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

We should listen to the design, and allow it to design us.

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. – Lord Commander Jon Snow

This article of mine first published on The Daily Seni.

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