There’s something totally romantic and awesome about slipping in to your writing “groove” over a dimly-lit desk and a half-drunk bottle of Jack Daniels. This is how REAL writers did it, afterall—right? Think Ernest Hemmingway, Tennessee Williams—Paul Sheldon from Misery. In fact, I don’t know many writers who haven’t given this age-old technique an official whirl. Hit a writer’s block? A little cognac should loosen your brain. Not feeling ‘moody’ enough? Some five-dollar gin should set you on your tracks…
I’ve tried it myself—many times. But I gotta say—for me, it never works. If I’m already a little beaten by the day, alcohol just puts me to sleep. And if I’m full of energy, that sip of Maker’s Mark just makes me want to go out and dance. But maybe I’m just boring. In my world, the best beverage for keeping me focused and imaginative is, er…. Water. Yup. I’ve said it—water. I may be a writing-square, but staying focused on my script (especially when the plot thickens, and every word matters) requires a clear-headedness that only total hydration seems to afford me. It’s my process. So sue me.
But I have several writer friends in LA who have developed some unique concoctions for motivating their writing juju. Here are a couple of the most fun ones:
RED BULL & XANAX
This medley may seem counter-intuitive. Red Bull is an energy drink that will keep your head-spinning and heart-pounding into the wee hours of the morning. Xanax is anti-anxiety drug that calms one’s breathing, and relaxes one’s mood. I’ve never tried this double-whammy myself, but proponents of the Red Bull & Xanax match-up say it keeps you awake while also putting the writer into a relaxed, easy-going mood, which makes it easier to focus and more mellow in the approach of one’s work.
RITALIN and/or ADDERALL
The first time I heard about people using an attention deficit disorder drug to help them with their work, it was in regard to college kids at ivy league schools hopping up on Ritalin for all-night study binges. Since then, I’ve met several screenwriters who have turned to this remedy, particularly when they’re up against a deadline and having a hard time focusing. Here’s what these drugs do: They calm you, focus your attention, and keep you in your seat working for hours on end. That sounds pretty sweet, but apparently ADD drugs can also have a dulling effect on a writer’s imagination. Some people swear by it—others think it turns you into a robot. But with so many fun side effects including erectile disorder, addiction, possible sudden-death, and acute formication (the feeling that BUGS are crawling under your skin) why not go ahead and give it a try for yourself?
Unless you’re writing a drug-trip movie, this one probably ain’t gonna help you. Cocaine use will put a writer into a temporary (and no-doubt fun) euphoric state, but it is usually accompanied by restlessness, the jitters, and an inability to focus. Not so much the perfect state-of-mind for writing. I’m including it on this list, however, because I have one screenwriting friend (who we will call BOB) who somehow manages to pull out pages in this ridiculous state, and swears the snow white is doing the work for him. I’m not so sure. The influence of cocaine on Los Angeles creatives is well-documented, however, so maybe he’s not just trolling for an excuse. For me, the cost alone makes this a less-than-desirable muse.
Ah, yes. Of this whole list, marijuana is by far the most-used stimulant among my screenwriting friends. Again, I am an exception here. If it worked for me, I’d do it—I have no moral issues with the green stuff. When I’m high, though, the very last thing in the world that I feel like doing is sitting down in front of a laptop and getting to work. Yuck. In fact, it affects me a lot like alcohol--if I’m already running on empty, weed provides the final push into a state of deep, restful slumber. Not the place I want to be for screenwriting. But for others, pot seems to take the edge off, and to put them in a place where they are at their most calm and creative. If they can keep their eyes focused on a computer screen, writers who benefit from marijuana report a heightened ability to push their scenes into new and exciting places, and to carry their storylines in unanticipated directions. Some writers resort to this method when they’ve hit a block, then edit-down the weed-inspired material later for greater clarity. Whether it works for you or it doesn’t, the sheer volume of writers who PUBLICLY discuss their use of marijuana while screenwriting would suggest it’s a method with some merit.
Don’t you agree, Seth Rogen?