Write drunk, edit sober.

The artist’s life requires intention, patience, commitment and a long-term vision. Not trying something out and giving up.

See, it is easy to give up since we creative types get bored easily. I know I get bored easily. I think that is part of why I am creative, because I get bored easily. And when you’re bored, you entertain yourself by creating new worlds. For a child, this looks like turning some chairs and a blanket into a fort or a castle and an ottoman into a dragon. When you grow up and channel that same impulse, it shows up as doodles on a notepad while you’re talking on the phone. For an artist, this impulse manifests itself as turning a lump of clay into something exciting.

I read an article recently about why you are creative at night. It has a lot to do with the brain, which slows down certain functions to save energy and prepare you for sleep. As a result, you stop paying attention to details, allowing the creative part of you to keep going and make something because that “responsible” part of you has gone to sleep. It’s as if it says, “I’m going to bed. Y’all do whatever, but leave me alone. Good night.”

Other than only doing creative work when you are tired, which I think can lead to mistakes, you can force this kind of state by drinking alcohol. This probably won’t surprise you.

So, the other way to trigger this mental state is with boredom. Allow yourself to get bored or sleepy, and keep a sketchbook handy to capture ideas.

This is why rituals are important. Rituals and routines prepare your mind to engage creative tasks. Because they’re so boring, your alert-mode brain gets bored and goes to sleep. That lets your creative side take over.

Salvador Dali had his own version of this trick. He’d doze off while holding a spoon, which would fall out of his hand and hit the floor, the ensuing clatter waking him up. He then painted the things he saw. That was his technique for hallucinating without the use of drugs.

You can use these sort of tricks for the ideation stage of your work. Then, when it is time to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of “editing,” drink coffee so you can be sharp and energetic and execute ideas.

Creating without inhibition

You know the saying, “write drunk, edit sober”? It’s not about getting drunk. (That’s never a good idea.) The point is to create without inhibition.

Put everything out there. Then when you’re sharp and clear, that is, “sober,” — that is when you go and clean it all up and give it structure and order.

Like a lot of other artists, I get a lot of ideas late at night. I’m very lucid and articulate (and talky, and it annoys my wife because she is ready to go to sleep) in a 30-minute window before I’m too tired to talk. That would be a good time to put ideas on the page, either words or sketches. It’s not a good time for editing. It’s better to do that when I’m more focused, such as 9:30 in the morning once I’ve had a few cups of coffee.

I think the lesson there is to find ways to make all that happen. Intentionally write or sketch at a time of day where your energy level accommodates it and when you are most creative. Find that time and generate ideas then. On the other hand, plan ahead to edit or refine your work when you’re clearly awake and focused.

What can you do to intentionally be more creative and productive?

Photo Credit: photophilde via Compfight cc