What do you get when you cross a cranky writer with an opium-induced dream? Nothing to gawk at, normally.
But English poet Samuel Coleridge defied the odds and cranked out an unforgettably creepy poem called “Kubla Khan“.
The only problem is nobody can really tell us what the poem is about. Coleridge couldn’t even do it. And unfortunately generations of poets have followed in Coleridge’s footsteps ushering in an attitude that says true creativity occurs when you alter your mind.
But that’s a terrible idea.
And there are nine more really bad ideas on how to jolt your creativity. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Wait for the Muse
Want to make my skin crawl? Want to watch me clench my fists? Then tell me you can’t write until the Muse moves you. In fact, if you’re a professional, I might hit you. I’ll repent afterwards, but I’ll definitely swing. Professionals write whether they feel like it or not.
2. Get Drunk
Or stoned. Or huff glue. [This is the Coleridge Complex.] You’ll write some of the most retarded stories, paint the most dysfunctional pictures while intoxicated. Funny thing is, they’re masterpieces while you’re high. But sober people will avoid you. However, get them drunk, and you’re a genius. See no. 10.
3. Eat meat
Long ago some Chinese mystic-artist always ate meat before he fell asleep so he could have great dreams. [Give me a break on the ambiguity. I read it somewhere. Just don't know where.] I don’t recommend this tactic either…because what happens if your dreams dry up? They will, artist boy.
4. Toy with Twitter
Despite what social media pundits want you to believe–Twitter is not an inspiration factory. It’s a chaotic cocktail party that will rob you of time. Doesn’t mean you can’t hang out there. I do it myself. Just don’t depend on it for creative ideas. You’ll get sucked away and totally forget what you were doing.
5. Smoke Cigarettes
No one’s flat-out preached that smoking cigarettes inspires. But stroll by any bistro and all the artists and poets and writers will be puffing away. Cigarettes kill, people. Then again, if you don’t care, you are guilty of number 7.
6. Fall in Love
If you depend on the unpredictable, violent emotions of new love **cough, cough, LUST, cough** then you might rock out a killer freshman album. Girls will stalk you. Men will envy you. Mothers will hate you. That is until your sophomore album rolls out. Then they’ll see you for the one-hit wonder you are.
7. Become a Sadist
Blame it on the Romantic poets: They were the ones who thought a true artist suffered. So what about the thousands of years of creative output before then? And frankly, what the Romantic Poets + Co. have created are marginal footnotes to enduring masterpieces.
8. Don’t Create
The Salinger principle of creativity states “you can’t create it without killing it.” You’re guilty of this if you fear that perfect artistic idea will get ruined if you commit it to paper or canvas. Get over yourself and create.
I’m guilty of this one. The idea that you will create great work if you do nothing but one thing. This is problematic because some of the best ideas come to us from fields that are far different from ours. Become the explorer. Not the homebody.
10. Thinking You Are a Genius
Or a “serious” writer. [Now, where did that come from? See no. 7.] Personally guilty in this category. Picasso said that it took him a life time to learn how to draw like a child. There’s liberty in simplicity like that. And great art.
Listen: This list was generated after twenty years of failing hard in my own attempts at creative writing and a simultaneous ten years of working as a professional writer and editor. I’ve seen these tips and attitudes come from my own mouth and the mouths of other writers. Do any of them ring a bell? Would you add any? And if you’re guilty, don’t worry. So am I.