Monday, November 11, 2013

To each his own muse

 I need a cow.

Gertrude Stein had one.  It worked for her.

Actually, now that I’ve said it, Gertrude had a herd of cows. 

I imagine they were the black and white ones and that they grazed in a brilliantly green French pasture enclosed with a split rail fence.  Chewing their cud.  Peacefully.  Reminiscing, as it were.

The cows weren’t exactly hers.  She just lived near enough to them that she could drive by daily and stop at different cows until she found the one that most inspired her. 
Then she’d write for her routine 30 minutes a day. 

She produced an impressive body of work just like that, staring at large bovine creatures.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a different approach:  Don’t go the bathroom. 

"I always try to be the first one in in the morning … take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom…"  Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.  

But as it turns out, you can argue with success, or at least with Bloomberg’s methods.

According to the author of “Your Creative Brain," Harvard psychologist Shelley H. Carson, little distractions like going to the bathroom can actually be a good thing when it comes to creativity.  She explains that interruptions and diversions can lead to a creative "incubation period."

That’s precisely what I say to my husband when he’s banging on the bathroom door asking how much longer I’m going to be in there:  “Hey!  I’m incubating here!”

I tell him that a number of incredibly successful people have had their most brilliant ideas in the bathroom, but I’m not sure he stays outside the door to listen.  We have another bathroom downstairs.  He can incubate down there.

And I found some research that supports my belief that being in the shower boosts my creativity and innovative thinking.

That and a big dose of dopamine.

According to neuroscientist and brain/creativity researcher, Alice Flaherty, the more dopamine in the noodle, the more creative we can be.

As she put it, “People vary in terms of their level of creative drive according to the activity of the dopamine pathways of the limbic system.”

Gosh, thanks.  I’ll get right on that.

Is there a black market for high grade dopamine?  I wouldn’t mind skipping all these esoteric side trips and just taking a pill.

But wait.  Flaherty goes on to say that typical triggers of increased dopamine flow are things that take us to our happy place, including taking a warm shower!  No pills necessary!

That’s my kind of multi-tasking! 

And as an example, Carolyn Gregoire, syndicated columnist from the says Woody Allen, the writer, actor and director regularly takes showers for inspiration, sometimes standing in the water for close to an hour to get his creative juices flowing.

Uh, OK.

"In the shower, with the hot water coming down, you've left the real world behind, and very frequently things open up for you," Allen said in a recent interview with Esquire, inexplicably referring to himself in the second person.  "It's the change of venue, the unblocking the attempt to force the ideas that's crippling you when you're trying to write."

But Woody, an hour?  There is that pruning thing. 

Have you seen him lately?  I know he’s getting old, but he appears to be manifesting some serious sag.  I guess it’s all a tradeoff.

So I’m working on the bovine solution.  Watching the cows. 

My neighbors brought in a bunch of goats for weed abatement.  That oughta work.