On Nighttime & Creativity

From an interview with Maker Magazine
—May 31, 2012

Night lends itself to isolation. If you're alone and in your own space, the night can provide a physical and psychological state where the removal of society and social systems from one's waking experience (the people and the problems you're more likely to encounter during the daytime) is entirely possible. The isolation of night allows us to reflect on the complexity of social space while seeming relatively separate from it. By nature I am not a social animal, so isolation is something I find immense comfort and opportunity in—whether it is to gather my thoughts or to act on my thoughts in some tangible, expressive way.

Nocturne in Black and Gold—The Falling Rocket (c.1875)
by James McNeill Whistler (image source)

At night there are so few actual distractions that I feel obliged to distract myself with work. Working might entail any number of activities from painting, gluing glitter onto objects I’ve discovered at thrift stores, or using my computer for all manner of expressions—whether browsing for creative inspiration or working with Photoshop, my mood is the ultimate decider. But some nights I simply want to be absorbed in something else, or I want to go out and experience the world on its own terms. It's critical to have downtime of one's own during which one either creates or abstains from creation; the latter being of paramount importance to creative people.

If I don't occasionally force myself to stop producing artwork the work risks becoming truly awful, and, what's worse, I might not realize it. That's when I'm in bad shape: when I can't tell the difference between something that works and something that fails miserably. At times like those, I need to distance myself from my craft for a day, a week, or sometimes much longer. Some nights are full of failed experiments, and that makes for some enlightening mornings (or afternoons) when one gets to survey the creative debris with fresh eyes.

Since graduating last year I have had the pleasure of being my own boss. Along with that luxury comes the ability to sleep only when my body demands it. So far, I appear to be allergic to the daytime—not in a biological sense, but insofar as it's entirely too garish for my taste. It's too bright and too shiny. There are too many schedules and people involved with the daytime for it to hold much appeal for me; some people really respond to such rigors. But it's when others are shutting down that my gears begin to spin.

—Chad Wys