Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote that her “candle burns at both ends,” epitomized the image of the insomniac artist: a person so consumed with the creative act that she couldn’t be bothered to sleep. No wonder Millay’s friend Dorothy Thompson called her “a whimsical genius, sometimes . . . petulant and imperious . . . sometimes stormy, turbulent, and as unreckonable as the sea.” The more overtired we are, the more irritable.
Of course, we forgive our artists their petulance and turbulence. It’s no fun to think of Shakespeare or Picasso or even Steve Jobs at their desks from 9 to 5 with a one-hour break for lunch and a 4 p.m. Starbucks run. A recent study in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity, however, suggests that creative-genius hours don’t fuel creativity and insomnia probably isn’t linked to the creative act. [read]