Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lucubratio (XIII)

Rosamund Harding, by way of Maria Popova:

Night-time when awake is perhaps the best time of all for the flow of ideas…. The spiritual aloneness that comes over the thinker when the world sleeps, carrying with it the sense of detachment so essential to a creative thinker may account partly for the fascination and spell of working by night. It is, however, a spell, to be resisted since it may lead to practices dangerous alike to bodily and mental health: Byron, sometimes writing on Hollands and water, Schiller on strong coffee, wine-chocolate, old Rhenish, or Champagne, the poet Crabbe at one time on weak brandy and water and snuff, and Balzac on endless cups of black coffee.

True, all true. Years ago, at a crossroads under the full moon, I made a deal with the devil stimulant, caffeine, in exchange for extraordinary intellectual insight and writing ability, and here you see the fruits of that diabolical bargain. Might it shave a few years off the end of my life? So be it.

Also true: the nocturnal musings were intensified further by the time I spent on long, lonely highways, livin' after midnight, rockin' till the dawn:

Harding also points to the importance of bodily posture and the habit of motion that many creators cultivated: Dickens and Hugo were avid walkers during ideation; Burns often composed while “holding the plough”; Twain paced madly while dictating; Goethe, Scott, and Burns composed on horseback; Mozart preferred the back of a carriage; Lord Kelvin worked on his mathematical studies while traveling by train. Harding offers:

It is possible that the rhythmical movement of a carriage or train, of a horse and to a much lesser degree of walking, may produce on sensitive minds a slightly hypnotic effect conducive to that state of mind most favourable to the birth of ideas.