Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Silly writing rituals: creativity pills

So the other day I heard a report about a new placebo study. According to researchers, placebos (sugar pills) can relieve ailments, even when a patient knows he's taking a placebo.

Before the study, medical professionals assumed that placebos wouldn't work if patients knew they were being given sugar pills. It turns out that assumption was wrong. In a study of patients with IBS (er, Irritable Bowel Syndrome), 60 percent of patients reported that they felt better after knowingly taking a placebo twice a day.

That day I was feeling uninspired in my writing (which probably explains why I was surfing the Internet and reading about placebo studies). So I wondered: If a placebo can cure cranky bowels, could it help me break through a minor case of writer's block?

I decided to run my own unscientific study. I didn't have any sugar pills on hand, so I reached for the next best thing: my daughter's jelly beans.  I figured that labeling and ritual had to be part of the reason why placebos work, so I poured the jb's into an empty prescription  container. (And I have to report that jelly beans look extremely potent when they're staring up at you from a bottle of blood thinner medication.) Then I put a nice label on it marked "Creativity."

As part of my morning ritual I started taking two "creativity pills" with my coffee. As I solemnly popped the beans, I paused to meditate for a few moments about my writing goals for the day.

And by God, it worked. I blasted right through that writer's block. I wrote four pages that day, and haven't looked back since.

The only thing is, now I'm afraid to stop taking the beans. I think I'm hooked. For my next batch I'm thinking of getting those special-order M&Ms--the ones you can order with little messages written on them. I'll get them labeled with something like, "Writing is rewriting," or whatever fits.


What about you? Do you have any silly rituals that help you get your creativity engine going?

And if you happen to be in the market for a writing pill, I can get you a great deal on a placebo.



14 comments:

  1. I think there's a lot to be said for the act of doing something to get you in the mood to write, even if it is taking two jelly beans.

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  2. Great post! Lately I haven't been writing isolated in my room. I've been throwing variety into my life, exploring my neighborhood and finding different coffee shops to write in. I don't know if that's silly or not. I should try the jelly beans!

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  3. This is how it always starts. A couple of jelly beans, for "medicinal purposes." Pretty soon it's five, then ten, then it's black licorice for editing days and Starburst for "creativity" . After that you're on to the hard stuff: Good n Plenty.

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  4. Dana, you're right--seriously, I found my Kindle smeared with Junior Mints the other day after an outing to the movies. Timothy, two jelly beans a day, that's all we ask. Taylor, I like the idea of exploring the neighborhood. I walk my dog every day, so it'll have a double benefit--he'll get a longer walk, and I'll get a change of scenery!

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  5. I have a home office and a desktop PC where I do most of my work. But about a year ago, I bought a small wireless laptop. So when I feel uncreative, I grab it, move out onto the patio, or even the dinning room table. I find that new surroundings and sights helps get the creative juices flowing again. But the jelly bean idea sounds interesting. Do they make a Jack Daniels flavor, Kathryn?

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  6. They have Butter Rum, Joe--it works in a pinch!

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  7. I'm with Joe on this one. Different sights and sounds seem to work for me.

    I've been having trouble getting in my right rhythm on my current WIP. I have two "day jobs" and am a single parent of three--count 'em, three!--teenage boys, so distractions abound in my life. But recently my fiancee and I took a short road trip to another city. During the days she spent time catching up with a friend of hers while I stayed in the hotel room and wrote all day.

    It was the most productive I'd been in months. Unfortunately, I can't pick up and leave town every few days, so I'm wondering about exploring coffee shops and such for writing. Always worked at home before, but there may be something to the different atmosphere concept.

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  8. I need to get me some of those! I don't have any rituals per se but I do find going to the gym and listening to music can help break through the old writers block - but it's no where near as fun as jelly beans!

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  9. B. Kent, I think there is real power in the change-of-scenery approach. It could be as small as a change from the house to a new coffee shop, as you point out.

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  10. Interesting research. My only suggestions are:

    1. While Jack Daniels Jelly Bellies might be acceptable for aiding writing, real Jack Daniels generally isn't a great writing aid

    2. Avoid the Harry Potter Jelly Bellies, which include flavours like onion, black pepper, booger and bile....(my son recently spiked a bowl of regular flavours with these delicacies....mmmm, mmmm...blech!)

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  11. That'd ruin anyone's appetite for jelly beans, Basil!

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  12. I need that creativity nudge right about now, but the only way it'll work is if I make myself sit down and start on my five pages a day routine. I have my writing goals written out for 2011. So it's a matter of choosing the project and forging ahead.

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  13. Kathryn this solution to writer's block is fabulous! What fun! Do you think I can fit a coconut donut in a RX container??? Happy writing!

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  14. I am seriously sitting here at my desk in TEARS!!!! laughing so hard at this. I love it! I am totally stealing this idea...but I'm going straight to the good stuff...I'm filling an empty Rx bottle with...Skittles!

    GREAT POST!
    Aj Luck

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