Creative Thought For Today: Creativity and Insomnia… And A Poem About Night’s Light and Shade

One of the things I've been noticing about Insight Timer App is the popularity of its meditations for sleep. And there is a raft of research showing how important good sleep is for creative performance. (More on this soon).

So yes, we aim to go to bed when we feel tired at night and rise when we awaken, refreshed.

But sleepless nights are not something to be signed away with a pill. In the clarity of the small hours, thoughts and feelings are a wake-up call from within.

Brian W Aldriss, the British writer best known for his science fiction had a beautiful metaphor for it: in the middle of the night, we manage to “hold all our life in the palm of our skull.”

It's at night, when perhaps we should be dreaming, that the mind is most clear, that we are most able to hold all our life in the palm of our skull. I don't know if anyone has ever pointed out that great attraction of insomnia before, but it is so; the night seems to release a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instincts and feelings; as with the dawn, a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams to drip into the waking mind… A “bad night” is not always a bad thing. ~ Brian W Aldriss

Many of the greats of English literature also suffered from sleeplessness.

Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poemsedited by Lisa Russ Spaar, is a collection of over eighty poems by famous poets and writers like Walt Whitman, Emily Bronté and Robert Frost, who have left us a record of their sleepless nights.

Fifteen of the poems actually have “insomnia” in the title.

Here is my own offering to the gods of sleeplessness:

Coming To

On my back.
In the dark.
Given up
to night.

I lie, a fool
A suckling,
Turning in
and will,
in the urges
of the underneath.

Up there: the spangled stars,
the moon, one-quarter lit and on the wane.
Its hollows tucked into its other half.
And beyond: the black beyond.
That dark that shades the darkness.
The lacuna.


Night pulls me in.


Night pulls me in
Night holds me still.
Night holds my wants
against my will,
held, I hold.


Oh stars, shining in from forever
ago, unfathomable in your million
millions (Why so many?)
And in your age.
(How old?).
And in your consequence.
Your hearts exploding into dust
somehow making us?

Oh moon, so cratered and so constant.
Growing darkness in the month’s declining shine,
all fullness fading, light to shade,
then back again.

Oh dear darkness that sets all
the light alight. Oh yes, my thanks
to you, our dear good night.

Night pulls me in
Night holds me still.
Night holds my wants
against my will,
I am upended,
released to rise again
through milky ways of silken stars;
through mingled shades of ink between;
through black and blue of space unseen
holding all I’ve said and felt and seen
to here.

All held. All level held.

All level and forever held.

Here, in my own holding,

in the empyrean.

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