Friday, March 26, 2010

The first late night in a while

Perhaps I'm simply odd, but there is a part of me that very much enjoys staying up late writing. (Of course, that's the same part that is tempted to spell "writing" as "righting," so perhaps I am crazy.) Watching my wife work, I increasingly recognize that perhaps this is simply an oddity of writers.

I am rarely up this late anymore, thanks to the demands of a regular-hours job (and trust me: that is a good thing). I do occasionally miss the flexible schedule of college, especially as I often had the freedom to stay up late writing (or composing) and thinking. The only reason I am able to be up so late tonight is because I have lab time scheduled late tomorrow evening (from 7 to 10 pm) and I am only allowed to work 4 hours a day, tops, right now.

Whether because my brain is simply in a more meditative mood thanks to the late hour, or for some other reason, I find that I do much of my best reflective writing late at night. I also do some of my best composing late at night. A few years ago, I was working on a very tight deadline on a composition project and spent a number of late nights churning out the notes. The music I put out ended up being my single favorite chamber piece I composed in all of college, though I wrote it in less than 3 weeks. Similarly, many of my favorite blog posts over the years were published after midnight.

I am not the only person to find late hours productive. In addition to my aforementioned wife, I know that many writers have historically found the night a good time to work, as have many of the great men of God. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that there are far fewer distractions available late at night than there are during the day. The world is a far quieter place—even in our technologically humming age—when the sun has gone down and the rumble of traffic has died to a minimum. A little gentle music (or simply the steady pulse of a clock's ticking) and the tapping of a keyboard or the stroke of a pen are very beautiful things indeed.

Jaimie and I were discussing Karl Marx today, as she's been reading his work for a "Books of Western Civilization" class she's enrolled in. It struck me that the Marxist countries have never really known what to do with their artists, except use them as propagandists... and the reason is simple: Marx's philosophy had no room for art. For all his rejection of the symptoms of modernity's emptiness, he only substituted one form of utilitarianism for another. Just as capitalism has little understanding of the value of art in and of itself, tending either to ignore art or abuse it beyond recognition, socialism finds no room for art that is not directed at some societal end.

Stephen Carradini shares one of my great passions: to change the world with art. It is harder to do than one might think... world-changing art is rare. I would argue it is rare for at least three reasons: first, that world-changing art must be exceptional in merit; second, that it must challenge its audience without so deeply affronting them that they ignore it; and finally, that it must say something ultimate, though its subject is usually incredibly mundane. Whether world-changing art is beneficial or not largely (perhaps entirely) depends on whether its author is working within a Christian framework (though whether he or she is doing so consciously is another issue entirely).

Sleep calls me, but art calls me as well. I wonder: is this the perpetual dilemma of every even slightly artistic soul, to be torn between health and the mad rush to create? If so, perhaps it is no coincidence that our Creator-God rested when he had made all that is.

And yes, I am self-aware enough and thoughtful enough even at this late hour to recognize that one consequence of writing so late (especially being out of practice as I am) is that the post above is essentially a series of small non sequiturs.


  1. Jon Foreman is another example of a late-night (well, early morning) artist.

    "...the post above is essentially a series of small non sequiturs."

    Actually, I think this a really good, coherent post! But take that for what it's worth--it's 2:20 a.m., and I'm a writer, after all. ;)

  2. Ha! I was thinking this last night as well via a late night practice session! It is indeed a perpetual dilemma between health and the mad rush to create! Well said!

  3. i do my best work at night, too. there are no possible distractions (well, unless my kids wake up sick). but the phone won't ring (well, except the rare and welcome occasion a friend needs me in the middle of the night; i'm always there for my friends). people don't email. there has been time for my mind to calm and slow and put to bed all the things that cannot be done till tomorrow. so i'm mentally free to explore the depths of my creativity in many various directions at one time w/out being interrupted - i can juggle all my thoughts and get them where i want/need them to go w/out having to drop them to take care of something else that is necessary.

    and ditto Jaimie - great post :)


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