How “Sleepless” Nights Can Make You More Creative

Well, nights of sleepus interruptus anyway. Sorry about the slightly exaggerated headline. Our SEO consultant told us to do it:


by Brian Cormack Carr

Are you the type of creative person who only generates ideas and solutions when you’ve had your full eight hours of shut-eye? Or perhaps you find your mind firing off with so many bright ideas that you sometimes find it hard to get to sleep?

Here’s how to consciously use sleeplessness to your advantage – by tapping its power to silence your inner critic and open you up to new streams of innovative thinking.

I was a student when I first came across Dorothea Brande’s book Becoming A Writer. At the time, writing loomed large in my life: I was writing essay after essay for my degree (English Literature and Language) and had also been appointed as a roving reporter for the student newspaper. Quite apart from that, writing was my first love and if I wasn’t doing it as part of the curriculum, I was doing it in my spare time.

I got Brande’s book out of the library because I was looking for a book that would help me to improve my technical writing skills. It did that to some extent, but the thing I remember most about it is an odd little exercise which seemed to be anything but practical.

Lose some sleep and find your originality

It involved writing on any subject for thirty minutes each day, immediately after waking up (the book instructed the reader to set an alarm clock for thirty minutes earlier than normal). Not only that, but the exercise included the strict admonition not to read what had just been written and to instead shut the book at the end of the designated period, and to repeat the entire process again the next day.

The aim, as I remember it, was to carry on in this fashion for two weeks straight and only then to go back and read what had been poured out onto the pages during this almost certainly blurry morning ritual.

I think I managed to do it for about four days before admitting defeat.

But what an interesting four days they were! When I looked back at what I written, I was surprised on two counts: not only was it far more coherent – and even well-written – than I would have believed possible in the circumstances; it was also far more original. In fact, I was able to develop one of those early morning pages into a short story that went on to win a university short story competition.

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