A Truant Disposition

"I must be idle."

In the dark…

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Apr• 08•14

I came across this article, Why Creativity Thrives In The Dark, appropriately enough last November when I was starting work on a new novel. Apparently, creative people do it in the dark. Or in very dim lighting. Of course, these days you can find a study purporting pretty much anything (including contradictory things) online, but this one tracks with what I’ve experienced. All my life I’ve noticed that I tend to be very daydreamy on rainy days and overcast days when the light is low and it looks like rain. I thought of it as a “rainy day” thing, but really it’s a “low light” thing, which would also explain those low light, late night, inspirations.

I thought at the time that if true, it probably helped some people doing NaNoWriMo, since for half the world the days were getting shorter and darker, with colder (and rainier and snowier) weather in some places. Since fall in the northern hemisphere is spring in the southern hemisphere, some of those people in the other part of the world were probably getting their share of overcast days with spring showers.

Since reading the article I’ve been more aware of the weather while working on the book and it certainly does seem like I’m getting more done on these rainy spring days than I do when the sun is shining, though that could be because pleasant weather lures me out away from my laptop to do outdoor things. 😉 I can’t say I got much done on the book during the gloomy overcast winter, but I was trying to let the book “rest” for a couple of months after that fast intensive start. It often pays to let something cool off after writing it, before editing and rewriting; it gives a bit of distance and objectivity, which I find helpful because at some point in a book you always have to cut something you like because it just doesn’t fit or work. (Though since I’m working on multiple books in a series, cuts from one book are occasionally moved to another book where they do belong.)

The article suggests something that I’m fooling around with to see how well it works: just as low light helps creativity, high light is much better for problem solving and logic. So I’m trying to see if not only lowering light levels on sunny days helps with my writing and rewriting, but if higher light levels will help with focus and analytical thinking that’s necessary for editing and doing such things as looking at the “beats” in the plot and pacing, the nuts-and-bolts of good storytelling, and other technical aspects of crafting fiction. Which, honestly, I don’t enjoy much, though I realize how necessary it is in order for the reader to experience the book the way I do in my imagination.

One thing the study doesn’t address is the affect of much closer surroundings on the writer. For instance, I get a lot more good work done when I wear my NaNoWriMo winners shirt from two years ago. (I didn’t care for the design of last year’s shirt, so I didn’t get it. Perhaps I should have.) I don’t think of it as a “lucky” shirt, or a talisman or anything like that; I think putting it on is more like putting on a resolve not to allow myself to be distracted and to work as hard that day as I did during NaNo.

Sometimes I feel like everything affects creativity, but for today — a sunny day — I’m going to lower the lights and do it in the dark. 😉

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