Timer designed by Simple Icons from the Noun Project

Timer designed by Simple Icons from the Noun Project

On Lateral Action, Brian Cormack Carr explores the effect of disturbed slumber on his blog, using inspiration from writer Dorothea Brande. A counter intuitive idea: By waking up just 30 minutes early and jumping right into the work, we can block our mental editor from hindering the idea-generating process. Carr writes:

By jolting oneself awake earlier than usual, Brande contended, the creative juices could flow without the editor being awake enough to interfere with things. Quite why the editor would find it harder to struggle to wakefulness was never fully explained – but Ms. Brande obviously believed this to be the case, and my own experience seems to bear her out…

I think the same can be said of any creative thought we expect ourselves to generate. In this world of practicalities and problems, perhaps it’s natural to protect ourselves by keeping a weather eye on all the things that might go wrong and stop us. However, when we start giving undue credence to those possible limitations, we stop ourselves from fully exploring all the options that are available to us.

When we’re awake and alert our brains have ample time to enable our internal editor to interfere in our thought process, as Carr explains. That mental editor easily convinces us that our ideas need to be tweaked, adapted, or thrown away, before we’ve had time to fully explore them. By waking up just 30 minutes early and jumping right into your work, you don’t give that mental editor a chance to wake up and intervene.

Of course, this is great for generating and pursuing creative ideas, but not so much for being productive or working on detail-oriented projects. For those instances, you’re going to want to get more sleep.


  • John Skeene

    I feel that you are on to something. When I am resting away from the computer I generate many ideas, and like you said the editor dismisses many of these ideas. Yet, when i wake I sometimes rush to the computer with fresh ideas before the editor can reject them I agree with you about ssleep and ideas.

    • http://www.creativesomething.net/ tannerc

      Thanks for reading and commenting John.

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  • Brian Cormack Carr

    Thanks for sharing my article and thanks to Mark at the Lateral Action blog for allowing me to guest on his great site. I’ve used this technique in my own writing and with my coaching clients (usually those who are involved in designing or redesigning their careers) – but I’m very interested to hear how others have successfully applied it to different creative endeavours. I suspect it works for many things – provided it’s not something that requires you to be bright and breezy first thing in the morning!

  • http://neladunato.com/ Nela Dunato

    Hah, I’m a total zombie for the first waking hour (even when I sleep for full 8 hours – ever a night owl), and I get an avalanche of ideas when I allow myself to just sit with a notepad nearby.

    Lately I’ve stopped this practice, but it’s made a huge effect on my creative work. Time to start that again🙂

  • nickskillicorn

    There’s actually some science behind this. The part of the brain which acts as the censorship centre is called the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex, and is part of the working memory (very advanced part of the brain). Like your heartbeat, your brain activity changes from very low (when asleep), to more active and stressed throughout the morning until fully active (at work). So when still sleepy, this part of the brain isn’t fully online yet. If you want some more advanced information on it, I’ve written about it at http://www.improvides.com/2014/03/24/creativity-team-sport-interview-vincent-walsh-prof-neuroscience-ucl/ and http://www.improvides.com/2013/08/07/top-13-reasons-to-try-business-improvisation/

  • http://stancebranding.com/ Justine Espersen

    This is something I’ll definitely be sure to try this week (since I’m in need a blog post idea). Thank you taking the time to write this!

  • http://stancebranding.com aimeemdoyle

    Love the insight! Now if I could make myself get out of bed a half hour earlier… (:

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