Popcorn Diaries

A light snack, perhaps?When I place my cart on the register, the woman looks into it to see that the contents are all the same. “How many,” she asks.

“Ten,” I say.

“OK, ten bags of popcorn. Are you having a party?”

“Would you go to a party where there was only popcorn?” I ask.

“No, I would not.” She beeps through the popcorn and I stuff the bags into my backpack.

There are so many things people do when they are having trouble being creative, writing or even coming up with an idea for work. They eat blueberries, drink red wine, watch a movie, eat peanut brittle or go swimming. Others go jogging, smoke hash or play squash. A thousand people have poetically summed up the struggles of writing when the words are being stubborn. I can simply add this – it sucks gopher ass.

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for two whole days when I finally decide to take the popcorn plunge, but desperation is at hand. It’s only for when the words really won’t come.

Like so many discoveries, the popcorn trick was found accidentally. About ten years ago, I hit a major wall while writing a play for a Pittsburgh playwriting contest. I closed myself off from the world for a weekend, listened to Mozart and forced myself to sit in front of the computer. But the words were coming out like drips during a Chinese water torture session so I switched to watching Jaws with a yellow legal pad on my stomach. After a few hours, I grew hungry and found that the contents of my cupboard consisted of microwave popcorn. I threw a packet in the microwave and set into it. But boy did that popcorn taste good and I considered more. Never one to let self-respect get in the way of immediate gratification, I microwaved another bag.

I am fairly certain that you can see where this is going. Two hours later, my full stomach and active attempts to quell my shame led to a nap. My dreams were incredible. I dreamed that I was flying a giant typewriter into Hades while Charles Bukowski groomed me. The sky was full of people riding typewriters and Charles and I threw Heineken bottles at a group of Shakespearian actors waiting at a typewriter stop. Eventually, all of my fingers fell off and I met a group of my Doppelgangers. I woke and completely overhauled the play, which soon became ’21 Minutes in Hell: The Night I Learned Charles Bukowski Was My Fairy Godmother.’ I did not win the contest.

Since then, I have used the popcorn treatment to spur my creative monkey, but only in extreme cases. This weekend counts as one, after inching through two brutal pages of my latest project. It’s a seldom used measure for a few reasons. First, popcorn in excessive quantities has the same effect on my body as a night of eating cement and drinking glue. Second, the dreams are absolutely insane and so intense that they often leave me unable to sleep for two nights afterwards. And third, I don’t want to become superstition’s bitch.

This weekend, the popcorn trick works its unusual magic, but at the expense of two nights’ sleep and several uncomfortable bathroom visits. Maybe I should look into that hash thing, or the blueberries.

How do you spur your creative monkey?

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