Friday, 7 March 2014

An Experiment in Improving Creativity: The Results!


Yes, it's that time. Just over three weeks ago, as detailed in this previous blog post, I embarked on a self-hypnosis program designed to give my creativity a kick in the mojo, and I promised I would report back on my experience. This was in no way a promotional gig, nor was I getting any kind of kickback, favours or other form of backscratch-love for doing this; it was an experiment, pure and simple. And for that reason what you're about to read is a completely honest account of how successful (or not) that experiment has been.

As I stated previously, I have done hypnosis therapy before; I used it as a pain-relief method during labour when I had my son. It worked extremely well for that. However, I wasn't about to let that sway me in my assessment of this program, because a) it was for a completely different purpose and b) seven years have passed between the two, and both I and my brain have changed a lot during that time. This is why I've been extra cautious about providing a fair and balanced assessment. I'm well aware that my previous success with hypnosis might easily lead me into looking for more positives into this experiment than were actually there.

*Deep breath.* Not doing that. This is going to be 100% objective, clean slate stuff.

And so...

First off, let's start with the practicalities. In order for each session to be effective, you need to have between 35-45 minutes of your daily life all to yourself, alone, with no interruptions of any kind at all. People without children are the ones not laughing hysterically at this point  - and hell yeah, this was definitely Major Difficulty Number One for me. Weekdays during term-time were fine, but weekends and a perfectly-placed half-term holiday in the middle of the program did cause some headaches (yeah... well, that's why none of the jobs I've ever done in the past have had the word 'Planner' in the title, isn't it?) Fortunately on the Kindle the sessions can be adjusted, so that you can choose between ending them with a 'Wake,' 'Delayed Wake' or 'Sleep' setting. By setting it to the 'Sleep' session on those days when I was going to be shadowed all day by a rampaging seven-year-old, I could do my session at night, just before I went to bed. There's also a choice between 'Long Induction' and 'Short Induction,' which varies the length of the talky bit that sends you 'down' into the hypnosis session proper. After the first week I changed it briefly to the Short Induction, believing (particularly with my previous experience of hypnosis) that I no longer 'needed' the long one - but changed it back to the long one after only three days, because... well,  the short one just didn't feel as effective. Which brings me on to my next observation...

The days when it really felt like a session had 'worked' (i.e. that I really had 'gone under' and hit that deep-trance state) were the days where I felt tired prior to that session. I am a very poor sleeper; I cannot seem to remain asleep for more than two hours at a time. This means that, for years, I haven't slept through a whole night without waking up  - and I mean fully waking up, for about half an hour - at least twice before I have to get up for the day.

At weekends and during the half-term, when I could get away with sleeping in a bit (some days as late as 7am - woohoo!) I was obviously less tired. Those were the days when I felt I wasn't really absorbing all the positive messages; I was just dutifully listening to everything that was being said - and actually getting a bit bored as the weeks went by, because by then I'd heard the same words so many times already... 

However, on school days, where I was having to get up at ridiculous o'clock to get everything sorted in time and then hitting that Wall of Knackered halfway through the day... well, let me tell you, those hypnosis sessions kicked ass. Hell, regardless of whether or not my creativity was being enhanced - and even though I wasn't actually falling asleep during those sessions - they were ten times better than a quick nap on the sofa. When they finished I felt as good as if I'd slept all the way through the previous night (I think I can still remember what that feels like...) So, as a quick daytime energy-topper-upper for the sleep-deprived I can definitely recommend this program.

(Ironically though, when I switched the ending of the session to the 'Sleep' setting so I could play it at night, it had the opposite of the desired effect. I was wide awake when the session finished, and my positively-hypnotised brain had no inclination whatsoever to go to sleep for a good hour or so afterwards. Maybe that's just me, but after a night-time session I just felt... I don't know, is there such a thing as 'benevolently wired?')

But now we get to the meat of the experiment... has it done what it said on the tin? Has it 'improved my creativity?'

Well, in terms of making me more committed to writing... I've got to be honest here, it scores a 'meh.' I track my writing hours each week with an Excel spreadsheet (my personal version of 'clocking in') and I haven't noticed myself doing much in the way of 'overtime' since I embarked on this program. Still hitting the targets... but no sign of striving to exceed it, judging from my timesheet.

But... within those hours at my keyboard, my word count appears to have gone up. for Draft One of The Renegades, I was hitting 400-450 words per two-hour session. In my Draft Two Phase (when my Demon-ass Internal Editor started showing up) that had dropped to about 200. In this last week or so, my word count has consistently hovered around the 500-600 mark. And... I'm liking what's coming out this time around - more so than I have since starting on Draft Two. To the point where I'm looking at what I've been rewriting over the past week and thinking "Hmmm... looks like I'm going to have to do another rewrite of all the previous chapters just to get it up to the standard of this one now." (Notwithstanding, naturally, the next stage of rewrites that will come after Draft Two is completed.)

(Of course even saying all of that has given me the heebee-jeebees, and I am touching everything wood-based and clutching rabbit's feet even as I lay the words down. But... if these are permanent changes, that's gotta be good.)

So, to conclude, it seems to have made a difference - for the moment, at least. And I can't deny it, when you get to the point where you've slipped into that cozy, shut-the-whole-world-out state of trance-y meditation it is the best feeling, ever. Better than being wrapped in a warm blanket, drinking hot chocolate, in front of a crackling log fire, with the rain beating down outside. That good.

I shall certainly be using it again, as a top-up measure for when Novel Constipation strikes in the future (as I'm sure it will.) And I shall definitely be using it in place of a quick daytime nap on the sofa to avert those times when my lack of sleep becomes so cumulative I start responding to everything and everyone like Kramer from 'Seinfeld.'

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