Not really a cure; not really anything -- a placebo prescription pill tailored to a particular writer who suffers writer's block. An essay in the May 2017 Smithsonian magazine reports about a Harvard psychology study of the placebo effect, PiPS, Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter.
"Why I Take Fake Pills," Robert Anthony Siegel, novelist, creative writing professor, and writer of numerous published short stories and essays, reports the PiPS placebo effect results to date. Oddly, the placebo effect works even if a recipient knows the placebos are placebos. The study distinguishes several recipient types who are amenable to placebos and types who are less amenable. The overstressed worrier type is most amenable, the least stressed warrior type is least amenable.
The placebo effect itself succeeds when part of a nurturing caregiver ritual event, setting, and character tableau, the essay notes. Like Mom's chicken soup, and she kisses boo-boos to make them better, clinical settings and pills for which recipients pay and which are part of the ritual, possibly part due to confirmation bias, enhance placebo effectiveness. The actual pill-taking is part of the ritual, though the pills are only cellulose. Hmm, cellulose is a carbohydrate, part digestible starches, part indigestible lignin fibers -- a mild energy boost and mild laxative to kick start the placebo effect? The caregiver-recipient ritual, opposed to which are the worries of creativity, self-doubt, and writer's block of a writer's social self-isolation pursuit. Is social insecurity a true cause of writer's block? If so, inferable then, healthy social security managed by whatever harmless means is a treatment if not a cure.
Not stated in the article though inferable, the caregiver ritual overall soothes stressors that impede creative task focus, calmness, and comfort, and allow creativity to flow with less of a writer's pesky self-editor impediments. Siegel does note that he wrote best under duress -- until that failed.
A line from the essay that says, hey, pay attention to the subtext (irony, satire, de se sarcasm): "I became worried that I wouldn't be able to suspend disbelief long enough to let the pills feel real to me." -- Willing suspension of disbelief, placebo effect portrayed as a prose writing allusion. Belief in a fictional setting, etc., placebo-like, is for the all-important fiction reading dream!
Anyway, all that said, the essay evinces a significant departure from Smithsonian's routine staid and agenda-driven content. Articles typically emphasize fact-driven and natural history information predicated upon a subversive social agenda, which demote or promote subjects, relate events, times, places, situations, and persons, rehabilitate tarnished idols, or tarnish idols, most which contain germs of truth and thick-laid hard-sell persuasions.
Siegel's essay, though, lays out what PiPS knows about placebo effect in a matter-of-fact manner -- superficial to the essay's real meaning and appeal; that is, a satire about the creative writing life. The essay is New Journalism, in that the writer of it is involved, in this case, as a placebo effect test subject. More, the essay channels Hunter S. Thompson's Gonzo Journalism mannerisms, notably, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Curiously, though, the chems are innocent and nontoxic!? More than the simple and superficial mechanics of Gonzo Journalism though, as well to a greater degree the aesthetics: subtext, satire, irony, de se sarcasm (of the self, self-effacement), a story with a start, middle, and end, and an appealing topic -- creativity and creator's block.
Artful satire the likes of Jonathan Swift and Maria Edgeworth aprowl again today in a wasteland of superficial blah and yada? In the Smithsonian? More; Swift and Edgeworth's satire is of an impersonal victim target, of social forces, Menippean satire. The de se satire type is deeply personal, though specifically of the self as the victim target, transcends the self and becomes universal. Huh, sincere self-deprecation and effacement satire? A rare commodity if not the stirring of a new satire paradigm. Something new under the sun!?
Siegel, Robert Anthony. "Why I Take Fake Pills." Smithsonian, May 2017: pg 21. Print.
A further implication of the article is how ritual possesses a power to affect and effect writing processes. A natural, effectual, not too superstitious writing ritual might entail an entire ceremony -- of many types -- and several parts. Like, say, a ritual garment donned, say, a warm and fuzzy favorite hair shirt, a mantra, prayer, litany, or magic spell, a figurine, figurines, or Post-it-notes with pithy maxims or writing guidances or epigrams, a reading, say, of a favorite narrative passage or comic book, poetry, song, and music, a ritual food and beverage, and a ritual performance space, all which suit a given writer's sensibilities, are flexible, and are productive and confidence boosters.
My shrine figurines: The Three Mystic Apes, See Not, Hear Not, and Speak Not and an armadillo (Do Not), allegedly carved from shark bone, though are Hyplar marble-polymer model casts, plus a tri-square and compass dividers are prominent in my composition performance space shrine to the Muse. Of course, the figurines are reminders, as well as their sage social wisdoms, to Do See, Do Hear, Do Speak, Do Evil and Do a sublime harmony of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, (Do Sense), on the sacred page.
The mantra, mnemonic, really: DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT. Description, Introspection, Action, Narration, Emotion, Sensation, Summarization, Exposition, Conversation, Recollection, Explanation, and Transition, writing modes; Setting, Plot, Idea, Character, Event, and Discourse, existents; and Antagonism (motivations and stakes), Causation, and Tension, drama components. Other spell words include, dialogue types: echo, colloquy, Q&A, non sequitur, and squabble; and tangible and intangible and super-liminal, liminal, and subliminal, emotional and moral charge, irony, satire, and sarcasm, and function: social commentary.
A disclaimer -- Seigel is a past writing acquaintance per moi.