Each day has its rhythms. Each month, each season, each year – all have their own character and pattern. We forget, in this modern world, when nature’s cycles are drowned out by noise and concrete, that there are hidden energies at work on our bodies and our minds. But recognising how these daily and monthly cycles affect our creativity can help us to create more effectively.
Even before I began to pay attention to my creative cycles, my daily rhythms seemed obvious. Evenings are the times when I am at my most creative. I’ve always been nocturnal, staying up until the early hours and getting up late. At night, I plan, daydream and cultivate ideas. I look forward to those quiet times before sleep when I can take advantage of the creative mood.
By contrast, mornings are always difficult for me. Having suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, I sometimes struggle to meet the day. I’m often anxious and reluctant to face the world. Mornings are my doubting times – when the ideas and plans from the night before seem silly and I don’t have the enthusiasm to do anything about them.
Knowing the rhythms of my daily cycles means that I can make them work for me creatively. I know that ‘morning pages’ or getting up earlier to create will never work for me. Finding ways to create once the working day has ended will be much more successful. But I’ve also found ways to make my mornings more productive. For some time, I practised yoga, which both calmed and energised me. Now, you’ll find me in the park just after 6am, walking the dog. First thing in the morning, visiting with nature, is a good way to begin the day.
Weekly and monthly cycles can be more difficult to recognise, so for eight months now, I’ve been recording my daily levels of creativity, comparing them to my moods and the phases of the moon. I would have expected that my creativity would increase with the waxing moon, becoming strongest at the full moon and fading as the moon waned. (In magic, waxing moon energies are generally for growth, while the waning moon is for banishing). In fact, I am more likely to feel creative during the waning moon. I almost always feel creative at the full moon, but quite the opposite at the new moon. But as you can see from the chart below, my creativity is capricious – there is no gentle pattern of waxing and waning, rather there are myriad peaks and troughs.
For two thirds of the time I’ve monitored my cycles, I’ve felt some level of creativity. November and January were my most creative months. The weekend is my most creative time of the week – Sunday, followed by Saturday, then Friday. This is understandable as I’m freed from thoughts of work to focus on the other parts of my life.
But creativity isn’t just affected by natural cycles, it is affected by mood. I’m most likely to feel creative if I’m in a positive mood. But that doesn’t mean I’m not creative if I’m sad or anxious. The number of times I was creative or not creative when feeling sad or anxious was equal, so it could go either way. And moods, of course, are affected by what is going on in my life. So during difficult times in the year, I often felt little creativity, whereas when I’m on holiday from work, for example, I’m more likely to feel creative.
Recently, a women’s writing magazine carried out a survey and asked a question about how hormones affect writing. There were a number of complaints from women objecting to the question, in the belief that we shouldn’t be defined by our hormones. I am a feminist and don’t believe hormones prevent women doing anything. But I know that for a few days in the month, usually around the new moon, I will feel crushingly depressed. This is probably the reason that new moons are usually so creatively unproductive for me. During my period and just after, I’m more likely to be creative than not, but just before, I’m much less likely to be inspired.
I’ve written a lot about the creative cycles of the year, but life is awash with cycles. Without paying attention to them, we can feel pulled in so many different directions that we may never know when creativity will appear and feel disheartened when it doesn’t. By paying attention to it, we can know when we’re most likely to be effective (for me, a weekend evening around the full moon, is probably the optimum time) and when we’re not (for me, on a Tuesday morning around the new moon). Creativity can seem capricious, but in actual fact, perhaps it isn’t as erratic as we think, we just need to tune in to the rhythms that affect it.