When my muse abandons me

February 16, 2020

To a person not accustomed to working at night, nighttime looks apocalyptic

I am not nocturnal. But I wasn’t always like this. Way back during the more carefree years of my life, pulling an all-nighter was the only way I could get any work done. But with the passage of time, I gradually realised that perhaps working during the night wasn’t as fruitful as I’d thought it was. In fact, nighttime is anything but creative for me, almost always crushing whatever creativity I’m left with.

For the purpose of this essay, however, I decided to put myself through an experiment. I decided to summon my muse – who has mysteriously been missing in action lately – for a night rendezvous.

To say the least, it did not go as planned.

The story begins at around 2100 hours on D-Day. After putting my youngest to bed, I finally muster up the courage to get up and trek towards my desk, nestled in the corner of my room with an expressionless stillness.

My heavy-lidded eyes are full of hope, in anticipation of the eventful night that awaits, kept open only by the anticipation of creativity miraculously unleashing itself upon me like a heavenly bolt of lightning. After all, that is what they show us in the movies, no? What if, with this working-at-night business, I eventually manage to summon the muse who has somehow stopped visiting me altogether?

So I sit at my desk armed with a steaming cup of tea. (According to Bookstagram, ‘steaming’ is the only word that can describe the real intensity of a good cup of tea.) I take a picture of the cup, filter it to death and then put it up on my Instagram stories – because hey! Where’s the fun if nobody knows that I’m working late? It’s almost 2200. By now I am done with all the crucial preparatory rituals, and my tea has dwindled to a few cold drops at the bottom of the cup.

Now work truly has to begin; but can any creative endeavour even begin without tea? The moment I step into the kitchen to get myself another piping hot cup, I am interrupted by my younger daughter, who barges into the kitchen announcing that she needs doughnuts for her school bake sale. From the looks of it, the world could stop turning if I fail to get the doughnuts. So, of course, I get into the car, drive to the nearest bakery, get the doughnuts, and drive back home. Of course, it is only after reaching home that I remember that we aren’t still living in the ‘90s and home delivery is now very much a thing.

After dodging the impending doomsday, I approach my desk with a renewed spirit and, of course, a fresh cup of tea. I open a new Word document. I look at the blank screen and the page looks back at me, equally blank. I wait for some kind of inspiration to hit me, but it is now way after midnight and the muse seems to be away carrying out its nightly escapades, paying me no heed. I contemplate going to bed for a moment, but now I have invested too much time in it to wrap it up without even a word to show for.

I know that I am not a morning lark, nor am I a night owl. I belong to that rare breed of morbid creatures who can only work during the day.

I get up from my desk with renewed determination. This time, I opt for extra strong coffee – maybe that will keep me awake. All the while, I am deeply aware of the fact that the world around me is growing steadily darker and quieter, and more depressing. Everyone in the household has gone off to sleep. Now, you must understand that for a person who is not accustomed to working at night, nighttime looks apocalyptic. There is nothing that says death quite like the sound of darkness. I take a peek out of the window, only to be confronted with what looks like the end of hope. I get that coffee and go back to my desk, the determination slowly fading. I cannot for the life of me understand why I even opted for this. The creativity is nowhere in evidence and I can only think of sleep.

It is now two in the morning and I have yet to put a single word on that black page. It is still there, staring at me. Or is it smiling? I realise that my mind has finally started playing tricks on me, and it is no use fighting sleep any longer. The essay can be taken care of in the morning. For now, I must halt my descent into madness.

My muse never visited me that night.

There comes a point in life when regardless of who you want to be, you must accept who you are. I know that I am not a morning lark, nor am I a night owl. I belong to that rare breed of morbid creatures who can only work during the day, as bland as that might sound.

And for all those who think that creativity is linked to nighttime, I can assure you that it isn’t. It will visit whenever you are ready for it, regardless of the hour.

The writer is a staff member

When my muse abandons me: Creativity is not bound by time