Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vroom, vroom!

Superstitions are not uncommon among athletes, and many have rituals they follow in preparation for an event. Some eat pasta or pancakes before a race. Some visualize their performance or listen to a certain type of music. There are those who wear a particular neck chain or must tap their hockey stick 10 times before taking to the ice. Some only approach the batter’s box from the left side, or offer the Sign of the Cross every time they come up to bat.

These types of activities are not restricted to athletes. Artists, writers and other creative individuals have their own superstitions, and (often strange) behaviors. The artistic process sometimes needs a good kick in the butt, either to break out of a festering rut, or to inspire new heights of creativity. Robert Genn, in his Twice Weekly Letters art newsletter, gave these examples of the odd actions of artists. Each day, before beginning to write, Dame Edith Sitwell would lie in a coffin. Poet Friedrich Schiller “kept rotten apples in his desk and inhaled them when he needed a shot of inspiration.” There is a story that 19th century landscape artist J.M.W. Turner once had himself “strapped to a ship’s mast and taken out to sea” in order to experience the drama of the elements during a storm. Accounts of eating raw beets preceding artistic pursuits, and painting naked have also circulated.

Edgar Allen Poe and Ernest Hemingway were reportedly heavy drinkers, though it is unknown if these behaviors contributed to their genius. Smoking cigars, drinking coffee, and marijuana use have all been employed as inspiration to intensify the creative process.

Many of us remember the phase the Beatles went through in the late 60’s, when they studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, and began writing and performing a whole new style of music.

Rituals or routines can serve as motivation, but after considering all of this, I’m afraid I am quite boring. Sure, I can never seem to get my creative motor revved up on a Saturday morning without a few cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but you won’t find me with brushes in hand while wearing my birthday suit.

It’s not a pretty picture!

No comments: