For millions of people around the world, a day hasn’t properly begun until they’ve had a hot, strong coffee. There’s no question that a shot of caffeine gives the mind a jolt, but for many there’s more to it than that: the morning coffee is part of the daily ritual. It’s putting the body on notice that thinking time starts around now, please, so would the old grey matter be kind enough to get ready with the good stuff.
Other (legal) stimulants many of us look to include a beer or a glass of wine to get help us get into a more relaxed state – one Danish PR firm even came up with a beer that they claimed took you to the point of peak creativity earlier this year – but that’s about all we’ll publicly own up to.
I watched the film Limitless recently – about a guy with writer’s block who takes a prototype pill that improves mental acuity and makes him more productive, creative and as a result, successful, rich and powerful. And it made me wonder whether if big pharma released a (legal) drug that made me more creative would I take it?
Throughout history people have relied on stimulants and relaxants to aid productivity and creativity – whether it’s caffeine fuelling workers in the industrial revolution, W.H. Auden using amphetamines to stay awake to observe Manhattan nightlife or Robert Louis Stephenson who wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde on a cocaine bender. Hell, even Steve Jobs even once said that taking LSD was one of the “two or three most important things” he ever did.
Now we’re not condoning substance abuse, but if some of the most creative minds of the past few hundred years have benefited from something illicit, isn’t it normal to wonder what you, too, might come up with given a little help? If there were no negative side-effects or long-lasting impact would you be off sharpish for a creativity pill prescription?
Many people will attest to the fact that alcohol, is most potent in the way it enables the mind to be less inhibited and thus think less conventionally than normal. But booze quickly slows thinking down. There’s a great blog about the alcoholic beverages of choice of famous writers here.
For marijuana, there have long been claims that a joint leads to creativity – but there have been just as many reports that have disproved the theory. One of the more recent ones, at Leiden University in Holland, claimed to have proven that the idea was a total sham, but the debate rages on: just this month a museum in Sydney defended an artist of theirs who said that teenagers should be given marijuana to unlock their creative potential.
Legal highs have been linked to creativity, too – last year The Telegraph reported on legally available “smart drug” Modafinil that students had been turning to in their droves to help them stay awake when studying. In tests run by the University of Nottingham, “those who were not creative were able to improve their performance in problem-solving.” But the study also claimed to find that the drug actually impaired healthy people already functioning at their optimum level.
So there’s no go-to prescription for creativity (yet). But my feeling is that somewhere in the not to distant future someone will launch a “safe” creativity boosting drug that gives you confidence, focus, energy, courage and that bubbly, “anything goes inhibition loosening” mentality that comes with a large glass of wine. And I reckon there’ll be people queuing up to take it.
I’ve honestly no idea if I’d give it a try. While I absolutely love the feeling that comes from being “in the zone”, I already know that I can get there without any help from magic potions – and if I was firing on all cylinders all of the time, I think it would just be bloody exhausting. Perhaps there’ll be a second pill just for that?