Drugs and Creativity

Drugs and Creativity

The link between taking drugs and creativity is a controversial subject.  In Episode 10 of The Creative Life we look at the latest research and the idea of using drugs to enhance creativity.

Watch the Video

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Latest research in Nature Magazine
  • The link between drugs and creativity
  • Taking drugs at different stages of the creative process
  • Caffeine and creativity
  • Dangers of stimulants at ideation stage

Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think.




Welcome to The Creative Life. This is James Taylor.

Hey it’s James Taylor here, I wanna talk to you about taking drugs and creativity. How those two things are linked, or not. I wanna preface all this by saying, I’m not a physician. I’ll put that out there straight away.

However, what was very interesting in a recent article in Nature magazine, which is a magazine or journal for scientists, is that now, 20% of scientists and researchers take prescription drugs in order to increase their performance in some way. An I see this happening obviously, in the creative industries, lots of different types of drugs being taken, experimentation, and different things to supposedly boost creativity. And I see a lot people getting things really, really wrong because they misunderstand the creative process and what needs to happen within the brain, and the different points in the creative process.

The thing I think about this is that stimulants, Ritalin, Adderol, Caffeine, these are all stimulants in one way or the other. You’re chances of having those “aha” moments or those insight moments are decreased when you’re taking stimulants. They can be useful at other points in the creative process, but in terms of “aha” moments, they decrease when you’re taking those, like, caffeine and those high levels of stimulants.

Let’s talk about the different points of the creative process and about the kinds of drugs that may or may not be appropriate at that point.

When you’re doing outwardly directed work, so in the preparation stage or the evaluation stage, we have these five stages in the creative process, you can go through to one of my episodes where I take you through each of these, when you do these different stages, those require you to do outwardly directed work.

So in the preparation stage, if you’re a writer, you’re probably researching very much in the area that you are writing. I f you’re a musician, you’re listening to all that music you get your inspiration from. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re looking at how different businesses work, studying online, doing all your online research. Caffeine, and stimulants like that, can actually be useful. They have a use because they allow you to do outwardly directed work.

Meanwhile, at the elaboration stager what is called the 99% perspiration, where you’re actually prepared, come up with the idea, evaluated and now you’re doing your work. Simulants can also have a role there as well.

However, when you’re doing the inwardly directed work, so that’s traditionally in the stage of incubation, where we put things at the back of our mind. Or the insight stage, where we have those “aha” moments all the time. Chances are that won’t be happening if you are taking stimulants or are decreased when you’re taking stimulants.

When are the common times when you’re having those experiences  or those “aha” moments? Being in the shower for example. or in a walk. You’re not in a high stimulated type of environment. Apart from that reason is because you are essentially defocusing a little bit, so you you’ve gone from the outwardly directed to the inwardly directed work you’re having to do. And stimulants rent the best use for that. So that’s why you see other types of drugs being used for those reasons.

The way to think about it is if you need to work 8 hours straight, you need to do that research or you’re putting in those early mornings, those late nights to get that startup ready, stimulants, caffeine can work, can be great.

But if you want to increase your chances of having those great insights, you need to think very deliberately about, if you’re taking any kind of stimulant or any kind of drugs, about what point you take those in that process. Because of those incubation stage, those insight, aha moments, stimulants are not the way to go. You may be working 8 hours straight, taking caffeine, but the chances of you having those insights are very much reduced.

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