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11 Imagination-Jarring Tips From Creative Geniuses

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There are plenty of competing theories for how to boost your creativity: paint your room blue, work someplace noisy and distracting, complete a bunch of silly sentences Mad-Libs-style. But there’s no better source for creativity advice than a creative genius. Here are 11 tactics practiced by big thinkers, artists, and innovators.

1. Hold your breath

Ig Nobel Prize-winner and Japanese inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu, who has more than 3000 patents to his name, has a Plexiglas board installed in his pool. He thinks underwater and takes notes on his board, a process he calls "creative swimming." And while it seems silly to take notes underwater when there are perfectly serviceable desks available, Nakamatsu swears by it, saying "oxygen is the enemy of the brain."

2. Embrace insomnia

Leonardo da Vinci had a lot going for him, what with the still-unmatched talent and cultural importance and, you know. Mona Lisa. But he was a weird mix of perfectionist and procrastinator, and sometimes he'd work for hours on one minuscule detail while leaving the larger scope of a project untouched. To keep himself going for as long as possible, he practiced polyphasic sleep — short naps every four hours, for a total of around two hours of sleep per day. Probably not for everyone.

3. Or just take a nap

Thomas Edison was a fan of the power nap. He gave it a good twist, though, which he claimed was integral to some of his best ideas. Edison would sleep sitting upright in his chair, elbow propped on the arm with a handful of marbles. He would think about his problem until he fell asleep, and soon enough he would drop the marbles on the floor. When the racket woke him up, Edison wrote down whatever was in his head, regardless of what it was—creative solutions, new ideas, a reminder to pick up milk on the way home.

4. Save yourself for science (or what-have-you)

Though he’s been called the greatest geek of all time, Nikola Tesla was a reasonably handsome guy, and the ladies liked him. But he attributed much of his success as an inventor to his strict celibacy, and no evidence exists that in his 86 years he ever had an affair with anyone. Ever. But rumor has it he recreated ball lightning in his lab, so it was probably worth it.

5. Find the bad apple

There's no reason to believe it'll work for anyone else, but Johann Wolfgang von Goethe insisted that a rotten apple on his desk helped him write effectively.

6. Engage hermit mode

Artist Jasper Johns worked three full months of each year in total solitude, painting and hanging out in a cottage in St. Martin from Christmas through March. Before he defiantly flew to Yugoslavia to reclaim his international chess champion title, Bobby Fischer lived for nearly 20 years in undisclosed locations. Add to the list J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Howard Hughes, Emily Dickinson... the list is long, but it's clear that for some people, hiding from the public eye is the key to thinking differently. (With mixed results, obviously.)

7. Chill out for a while

When Cervantes had deep thoughts to think, he filled a tub with frigid water and sat with his feet and calves submerged until he had an epiphany.

8. Head north

Charles Dickens was a quirky guy. One of his required writing-time necessities was a desk that faced due north, and even when he slept he took every precaution to ensure that his body was aligned with the poles—head at the northern end, feet toward the south.

9. Get a little macabre

In addition to his bizarre directional work and sleep arrangements, Dickens also liked to hang out at the morgue, where he watched people work on incoming bodies. He followed his "attraction to repulsion" to crime scenes, too, where he'd try to analyze the locations to solve murders. Whether any of this was helpful to his literary plots is second to the regular practice of thinking creatively to solve hard problems. (That said, there's no report that Dickens ever solved a murder.)

10. Invest in that Clover machine

Just about everyone loves coffee, but almost no one loves coffee in the way Honore de Balzac did. He worked 16 hours a day, tossing back cup after cup of specially blended Parisian java (some sources say he could down 50 cups in a day). To overcome caffeine tolerance, he ate dry grounds, and on an empty stomach, no less, famously saying that after a mouthful of coffee beans, "sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army...."

11. Booze!

Alcoholism and artistry go way back, and everyone has a favorite drinky singer or writer because there's no shortage of them, really. But it seems science is siding with Hemingway and Winehouse on this one: a recent study shows that a few drinks can release your verbal inhibitions (obviously) and allow your mind to wander just far enough to come up with novel solutions to complicated problems. At a blood alcohol level of .075 percent, the study's volunteers were able to solve word association puzzles faster and better than the control group of sober peers.

9 Curses for Book Thieves From the Middle Ages and Beyond

It may seem extreme to threaten the gallows for the theft of a book, but that's just one example in the long, respected tradition of book curses. Before the invention of moveable type in the West, the cost of a single book could be tremendous. As medievalist Eric Kwakkel explains, stealing a book then was more like stealing someone’s car today. Now, we have car alarms; then, they had chains, chests … and curses. And since the heyday of the book curse occurred during the Middle Ages in Europe, it was often spiced with Dante-quality torments of hell.

The earliest such curses go back to the 7th century BCE. They appear in Latin, vernacular European languages, Arabic, Greek, and more. And they continued, in some cases, into the era of print, gradually fading as books became less expensive. Here are nine that capture the flavor of this bizarre custom.


A book curse from the Arnstein Bible, circa 1172
A curse in the Arnstein Bible
British Library // Public Domain

The Arnstein Bible at the British Library, written in Germany circa 1172, has a particularly vivid torture in mind for the book thief: “If anyone steals it: may he die, may he be roasted in a frying pan, may the falling sickness [i.e. epilepsy] and fever attack him, and may he be rotated [on the breaking wheel] and hanged. Amen.”


A 15th-century French curse featured by Marc Drogin in his book Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses has a familiar "House That Jack Built"-type structure:

“Whoever steals this book
Will hang on a gallows in Paris,
And, if he isn’t hung, he’ll drown,
And, if he doesn’t drown, he’ll roast,
And, if he doesn’t roast, a worse end will befall him.”


A book curse excerpted from the 13th-century Historia scholastica
A book curse from the Historia scholastica
Yale Beinecke Library // Public Domain

In The Medieval Book, Barbara A. Shailor records a curse from Northeastern France found in the 12th-century Historia scholastica: “Peter, of all the monks the least significant, gave this book to the most blessed martyr, Saint Quentin. If anyone should steal it, let him know that on the Day of Judgment the most sainted martyr himself will be the accuser against him before the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Drogin also records this 13th-century curse from a manuscript at the Vatican Library, as notes. It escalates rapidly.

"The finished book before you lies;
This humble scribe don’t criticize.
Whoever takes away this book
May he never on Christ look.
Whoever to steal this volume durst
May he be killed as one accursed.
Whoever to steal this volume tries
Out with his eyes, out with his eyes!"


A book curse from an 11th century lectionary
A book curse from an 11th century lectionary
Beinecke Library // Public Domain

An 11th-century book curse from a church in Italy, spotted by Kwakkel, offers potential thieves the chance to make good: “Whoever takes this book or steals it or in some evil way removes it from the Church of St Caecilia, may he be damned and cursed forever, unless he returns it or atones for his act.”


This book curse was written in a combination of Latin and German, as Drogin records:

"To steal this book, if you should try,
It’s by the throat you’ll hang high.
And ravens then will gather ’bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you’re screaming 'oh, oh, oh!'
Remember, you deserved this woe."


This 18th-century curse from a manuscript found in Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, is written in Arabic: “Property of the monastery of the Syrians in honorable Jerusalem. Anyone who steals or removes [it] from its place of donation will be cursed from the mouth of God! God (may he be exalted) will be angry with him! Amen.”


A book curse in a 17th century manuscript cookbook
A book curse in a 17th century cookbook

A 17th-century manuscript cookbook now at the New York Academy of Medicine contains this inscription: "Jean Gembel her book I wish she may be drouned yt steals it from her."


An ownership inscription on a 1632 book printed in London, via the Rochester Institute of Technology, contains a familiar motif:

“Steal not this Book my honest friend
For fear the gallows be yr end
For when you die the Lord will say
Where is the book you stole away.”


One of the most elaborate book curses found on the internet runs as follows: "For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change to a Serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain, crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution. Let Book-worms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment let the Flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.”

Alas, this curse—still often bandied about as real—was in fact part of a 1909 hoax by the librarian and mystery writer Edmund Pearson, who published it in his "rediscovered" Old Librarian's Almanack. The Almanack was supposed to be the creation of a notably curmudgeonly 18th-century librarian; in fact, it was a product of Pearson's fevered imagination.

5 Things We Know About Deadpool 2

After Deadpool pocketed more than $750 million worldwide in its theatrical run, a sequel was put on the fast track by Fox to capitalize on the original's momentum. It's a much different position to be in for a would-be franchise that was stuck in development hell for a decade, and with Deadpool 2's May 18, 2018 release date looming, the slow trickle of information is going to start picking up speed—beginning with the trailer, which just dropped. Though most of the movie is still under wraps, here's what we know so far about the next Deadpool.


The tendency with comic book movie sequels is to keep cramming more characters in until the main hero becomes a supporting role. While Deadpool 2 is set to expand the cast from the first film with the addition of Domino (Zazie Beetz), the return of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and the formation of X-Force, writer Rhett Reese is adamant about still making sure it's a Deadpool movie.

"Yeah, it’ll be a solo movie," Reese told Deadline. "It’ll be populated with a lot of characters, but it is still Deadpool’s movie, this next one."


Fans have been waiting for Cable to come to theaters ever since the first X-Men movie debuted in 2000, but up until now, the silver-haired time traveler has been a forgotten man. Thankfully, that will change with Deadpool 2, and he'll be played by Josh Brolin, who is also making another superhero movie appearance in 2018 as the villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. In the comics, Cable and Deadpool are frequent partners—they even had their own team-up series a few years back—and that dynamic will play out in the sequel. The characters are so intertwined, there were talks of possibly having him in the original.

"It’s a world that’s so rich and we always thought Cable should be in the sequel," Reese told Deadline. "There was always debate whether to put him in the original, and it felt like we needed to set up Deadpool and create his world first, and then bring those characters into his world in the next one."

Cable is actually the son of X-Men member Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey named Madelyne Pryor (that's probably the least confusing thing about him, to be honest). While the movie might not deal with all that history, expect Cable to still play a big role in the story.


Although Deadpool grossed more than $750 million worldwide and was a critical success, it still wasn't enough to keep original director Tim Miller around for the sequel. Miller recently came out and said he left over concerns that the sequel would become too expensive and stylized. Instead, Deadpool 2 will be helmed by John Wick (2014) director David Leitch. Despite the creative shuffling, the sequel will still feature star Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

“He’s just a guy who’s so muscular with his action," Reynolds told Entertainment Weekly of Leitch's hiring. "One of the things that David Leitch does that very few filmmakers can do these days is they can make a movie on an ultra tight minimal budget look like it was shot for 10 to 15 times what it cost,"


No, this won't be the title of the movie when it hits theaters, but the working title for Deadpool 2 while it was in production was, appropriately, Love Machine.


The natural instinct for any studio is to make the sequel to a hit film even bigger. More money for special effects, more action scenes, more everything. That's not the direction Deadpool 2 is likely heading in, though, despite Miller's fears. As producer Simon Kinberg explained, it's about keeping the unique tone and feel of the original intact.

"That’s the biggest mandate going into on the second film: to not make it bigger," Kinberg told Entertainment Weekly. "We have to resist the temptation to make it bigger in scale and scope, which is normally what you do when you have a surprise hit movie."


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