A mediocre, only nominally creative American once said, “Creativity is the essence of artistry; without it there is no life.” But sometimes it’s difficult to find the ‘X’ of inspiration on the imagination map, especially after a day in meetings having your soul sucked from your body like a hungry aardvark on a termite hill; those hours of buzzwords and boring rhetoric tend to stifle the creative broth boiling in the pot of life. But we cannot give up the fight to keep the creative juices flowing.
There is much debate over whether creativity is a matter of nature or nurture. Are we born creative or can we learn it the way we learned how to like beer back in the early eighties when Milwaukee’s Best was all we could afford? As an outsider in Richard Florida’s Creative Class, I choose to believe one can nurture creativity, so long as one has access to the right inspiration. Here are 7 suggestions almost anyone can use to enhance their creativity.
1. Rum (and other alcoholic beverages)
James Hamblin noted in the Atlantic, “Being boring is just a notch above being malicious or genocidal…” Nobody wants to be boring. Thankfully, alcohol, or my personal favorite, rum, is a splendid way to stave off the mundane and enhance the creative process. Think for a moment about the most boring person you know. You both start drinking, get a nice buzz going, and wham! All of a sudden they are a little less boring. Did they become more creative with the infusion of five or six Raspberry Ginger Rumtini’s? Are they more tolerable because you are creatively coming up with ideas about how to make a quick exit? It matters little which is true, creativity is enhanced.
There is anecdotal evidence to support the theory of consumption-derived creativity. Writing—a highly creative endeavor prior to my entry into it—is reportedly enhanced by the consumption of alcohol. In fact, some of the best writers in history were reportedly alcoholics. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Too much champagne is just right;” Ernest Hemingway drank to make other people more interesting; and James Joyce noted, “The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue.” All notable writers advocating the consumption of alcohol—woe that it was not rum.
Sure, there is the whole cirrhosis of the liver thing. But nobody is suggesting one be that creative every day. In fact, too much of almost anything can be bad, including creativity.
This is not to suggest we all become alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic and quite an ars; however, he could turn an ordinary expletive into an extraordinarily colorful and highly creative phrase. Further proving there may be a point this alcohol-creativity combo.
Marijuana has been used in everything from brownies to cigarettes for what seems like thousands, if not millions of years. The dinosaurs got blazed, the first humans got baked, and everyone from Ph.D.’s to iron workers occasionally shotgun a little doobage. Might it kill a few brain cells, or cause cancer? Possibly. But in the words of a rather infamous, albeit successful family member, “I feel more creative.” That’s the whole point.
Marijuana is now legal in something like 75 states and it’s only a matter of time before it makes it to the rest of them. The big danger here, besides going to jail in one of the more moderate locales, is being creatively lapped by all the people who can legally burn a fat one. If we don’t keep up, we could easily be left behind in their creative smoke.
It’s free, its available, and it won’t normally land you in jail. Henry Grayson, Ph.D. and author of Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind, notes, “Oxygen is fuel for the brain.” The idea of oxygen fueling the brain and therefore creativity makes sense. Back in the day, particularly after a long night of fun and frolicking, we often took a few deep inhales of oxygen before work to help clear our minds. The industry is unimportant—we wouldn’t want to ruin the American public’s faith in one of her primary institutions—but the results were real.
Oxygen is critical to brain function. Take for example the sleeper hold used by Rowdy Roddy Piper, the greatest wrestler ever to enter a ring. He was a master on the mat and a genius on the screen. Had the reverse been true and the sleeper hold found its way into an opponent’s repertoire, Piper might never have come up with, “I came here to chew bubble gum and kick ars and I’m all out of bubble gum” (They Live, 1988). Obviously the result of good oxygen-aided creativity.
One biographer, quoting the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, noted, “Coffee slides me into the working day before my procrastinatory urges can kick in: grind beans, brew coffee, plunge, pour, sip, open laptop… and I’m working before I’ve had a chance to protest.” Many people can barely function before their first cup of java, my wife included. Prior to that first cup she’s lucky to find the kitchen. After the first cup, nay, the first half cup, she is the loveliest, most creative personality ever to grace a Sunday brunch.
Coffee, or rather caffeine, kick starts the creative process. This is not an isolated occurrence in a small subset of the human race. How many of us heard or used the phrase, ‘You don’t want to see me before my morning coffee;’ or ‘Just give me a cup of coffee before you talk to me;’ or a personal favorite, ‘If you say another word before I’ve had my coffee, I’m going to have you drawn and quartered by the gremlins dancing around inside my head.’ Common phrases with a common theme—without coffee, we aren’t creative enough to find our way to the bathroom.
5. Lick the back of a frog
If kissing a frog—or toad, what’s the difference when it comes to matters of the tongue?—turns him into a prince, imagine what licking one will do. Admittedly, there is little hard evidence to suggest that doing so would enhance creativity. Nevertheless, if a person is brave enough to overcome cerebral cortex urges, suppress their natural instincts, and lick the venom off the back of a frog, that person is one creative human already. It is virtually guaranteed that when we wake we will come up with more creative ways in which to enhance creativity than licking a slimy, wart-ridden, amphibian.
6. Place Yourself in a Survival Situation
There is something about our need for self-preservation that makes us more creative. Imagine, you and a friend are roaming through Africa taking photos of giraffe. Suddenly and without warning a lion appears. You immediately notice it is a female lion, which means it’s probably not going to lay down and wait to be called to dinner. You take off running, leaving your unobservant friend behind. Why? Because creativity, spurred by a million years of survival instinct, deduced that you don’t have to run faster than the lion, only faster than your friend. Is it adrenaline? Endorphins? Does it matter? The end result is increased creativity and a dead friend.
God is one creative genius. Look at our planet. Have you seen the duck-billed platypus, or the three-toed sloth, or Donald Trump for President billboards? How does one achieve other-worldly creativity? We could try to go all Buddha on everyone, attempting to achieve enlightenment while sitting under a tree in the middle of nowhere, but that took Buddha like 90 years or something. Or—wait for it—we could kick the bucket and gain enlightenment when we enter the kingdom of heaven, or whatever your particular brand of post-death accommodations entail.
Obviously this is wrought with potential problems. For one thing, unless we can employ our new found creative boost to discern an inspired means of reincarnation as something other than a bug, nobody alive will know how creative we’ve become. Second, although I’ve never experienced it myself, I presume one would have to die in order to be dead, which could be quite painful. That is why this suggestion is listed last, after all other options are exhausted.
There is no doubt about creativity’s value in almost every aspect of our lives, from work to fare l’amore. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all solution to boosting one’s creative juices. If you really want to drink up, bake some brownies, steal grandpa’s oxygen, down some joe, hunt for frogs, have a friend bind and suspend you over a tank of alligators, or float into the afterlife, just do it responsibly.
Disclaimer: The author neither employs nor advocates the use of any of the aforementioned methods, except maybe item number 1—but definitely not number 7.
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