I recently visited Vienna and spent some time wandering around the house and garden of the composer Haydn.
Among the details of his life, was the fact that he rose at 6.30am every day to begin composing. (He apparently always dressed in his best clothes as he considered his composing work, the work of God, so should wear his best, for this important task).
For me, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation when I rise early. I love to catch the beginning of dawn, particularly in the Spring. The dawn chorus in Spring is one of the most incredible sounds of nature.
As a composer I love to listen closely to it. Rising early is a sort of gathering time when I’ll catch ideas and inspirations. The natural world is a huge source of inspiration for me – I need to feel cold stones under my bare feet, spend a long time gazing at a flower, touch the bark of a tree, or whatever catches my eye. I’ve learnt (and still learning), to watch out for those inspirations. Somehow, in the stillness of the early part of the day, it is easier perhaps to catch them than later, when my mind must turn to teaching, chores and the general busy-ness of the day.
I think this might be why early mornings are a good time to be creative, because the busy-ness of the day hasn’t yet taken hold with its endless tasks and demands.
Early morning has a stillness that gives the creative part of me space to be. If I miss it, I feel bereft. I have come to learn that my creative energy doesn’t work in the afternoons. I can edit work, experiment with ideas and also this is when I teach piano, but the creative ideas rarely come to me at this time of day.
Evenings are another quiet time, when, if I’m not too tired, I’ll return to shape the work I started earlier. Haydn also returned apparently in the evenings to work on his morning improvisations, after his visitors and students had left for the day. I have to discipline myself at this time not to be too distracted by the tyranny of the television – zoning out has its place – but too much of it, seems to act like a sort of anaesthetic to my creative life.
As I finished wandering around Haydn’s garden, I could imagine him, before climbing the stairs to his piano, sitting there, quietly listening to the birdsong in the early morning, as I too begin my day often with the sound of a goldfinch calling.
When is your most creative time in the day? I’d love to know.