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Intoxicating creativity? - SynTAROTis

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27 February 2012



Thanks for your interesting post.

Ernest Hemingway is often quoted as saying, "Write drunk, edit sober," and this is held up as some kind of great wisdom from the master himself. The problem is, nobody can ever cite a specific work of his on this. That's because he never said it. Also, that was not his practice. Papa would write in the morning and get drunk in the afternoon. He did not get drunk when he was writing. He did not use liquor as a "creative stimulant," but for other reasons. He was treated for depression and eventually took his own life. I haven't checked them out, but I imagine the other examples are equally bogus.

The Remote Associates Test is a lousy model of creativity. The sober group takes an average of 15.4 seconds to solve a puzzle, while the drunk group takes 11.5 seconds. Does that mean that the drunk group is more "creative" than the first? Hardly. Creativity combines many factors -- mastery of craft, good work habits, discipline, experimenting with different processes. I disagree with your characterization of creative thinking as associational -- the most creative thinking combines various cognitive modes, sometimes including analytical, step-by-step approaches.

There are writers who take a shot of booze to loosen up or to silence the inner critic before banging out a draft. This can help them get the draft out, but I believe there are better approaches that are not self-destructive.

Martie Groenewald

Alcohol is certainly not going to help you solve more interesting problems than the RAT ones. The RAT uses insight solutions (the "A-ha!" experience) to measure creativity, which is mostly irrelevant to either creative solutions to complex problems or creativity as in art.

I agree that creativity is more than associational. Creativity is both finding new ideas and solutions (which is often about associations, making new connections, seeing something in a new light), and doing something about those ideas, which calls for a different mindset than drunk and dreamy.

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