the key to your inner creativity: Nyquil?

Posted on December 10, 2008

I’ve been fighting off a truly, truly wicked cold for nine days now — ugh — and as such all productive activity (writing, blogging, cooking, Christmas shopping, housecleaning) has ground to a halt. This is mightily annoying, as is the cough, but there’s this one weird side effect to being super-sick: All of a sudden, my brain is FULL of story ideas. Within the nine days, between doses of cough syrup and Nyquil, I’ve come up with a number of different, intriguing ideas, at least three of which I think I want to pursue.

The funny thing is, this has happened to me before. Last year, while recuperating from surgery, I came up with the rough version of the idea that I’ve now spent the past couple of months working on, as well as another couple concepts that, while backburnered for now, are solid story ideas.

And I was just saying to myself about two months ago, “Wow, I haven’t had a new book idea in a while.” But I reminded myself then that, for me at least, these things come in waves: I have no new ideas for ten months, then during the next two come up with more concepts than I could follow if I were a full-time writer for the next five years. What I never realized before was that apparently the waves all come when I’m sick!

Does this happen to anybody else? Would a cure for the common cold (or, in this particular case, uncommonly vicious cold) end all creative thought as we know it? Or is this just the meds talking? Will I come down from my Robitussin high and realize these story concepts are all so much jibberish? Only time will tell.

22 Responses to “the key to your inner creativity: Nyquil?”

  1. wiliqueen

    I don’t so much get a lot of idea as have much more interesting — and, curiously, emotionally engaging — dreams.

    I briefly considered writing down the one from Monday night/yesterday morning as notes for an original story, then realized I had no interest whatsoever in actually writing it, even though it would probably be pretty darn good. (This, children, is what I mean when I say I write but don’t self-identify as a writer. None of my writer friends would even consider dumping an idea out of hand like that. I do it all the time.) And I’ve completely forgotten what it was now, even though it was crystal-clear for half an hour or so after I got up (this is not at all uncommon), and the pervasive melancholy from the situation lasted a good half of yesterday.

    This morning I woke up from a quite detailed one about being involved in a proposal for that “Arts Corps” idea they’ve been talking about on the news, and specifically from making a list of potential objections to the program as we were outlining it so that we could address them. The person in charge was having anxiety because I was writing the list of potential objections all the way across my notes page; he wanted it tucked into a box on the side to make it easier for him to deal with. Much more boring, so of course it’s the one I actually still remmeber at 3 p.m. *eyeroll*

    • admin

      I go through waves of vivid dreams too, but there’s no particular trigger for those, although travel often works.

  2. serafina_zane

    When I get sick, I make mix tapes. Like, I’ll be horribly ill and burning CDs and making cover art. And then I’ll put them on and sleep for hours and hours.

    I generally only get great new ideas when I should be doing something else or should be writing something else.

  3. taraljc

    I think part of it is the lack of distractions, which lets things bubbling in the back up your brain come to the fore. I actually get ideas (and great chunks of dialogue) mainly while walking to and from work, brunch, etc., and it’s usually a mad rush to write them all down when I get home. But every other hour of the day, something else is in the way. Computers connected to the internets, telly, work that needs doing, a book in my purse, or a copy of a newspaper on the train. But when I’m walking, it’s just me and my own head.

    Hence me calling people to talk about, oh, say, Bones, on my mobile while walking home from work now and then. Me and my own head can be scary

    • admin

      See, I tend to find sickness extremely distracting; I can obsess about my health for hours, read all the potential side effects of Nyquil, etc. Maybe the creativity is my brain’s way of trying to save me from myself?

  4. Anonymous

    personally, all my good ideas come when something has happened that upset me, or was life changing. for example when my dog died i came up with an amazing idea which i am slowly writing or even when i get my heart broken. i think waves like this are common for all writers but are brought about by different things. it would make sense then that maybe when you’re sick you get some awesome ideas while someone else might get awesome ideas when they’re tired or cold etc.

  5. talshannon

    When I am sick is the only time that my brain tends to simmer down. I’m what my husband calls an “idea machine” — I churn out a dozen or so story concepts and business ideas a day. Most of them go where they belong, in the “brain delete bin,” and the rest I keep for five years from now, when I will finally have time to pay attention to them!

    When I’m sick, my brain gets just foggy enough for me to take a break from all the idea bombs it pummels me with. I never seem to get sick enough to stop writing, though. 😉