"All your favorite music is made by people on drugs" Bill Hicks
On stage during one of his iconic standup routines the late and revered comedian Bill Hicks suggested that all great artistic work was created by people who had some kind of artificial stimulant to push them further. There is the idea that in order to truly unleash a level of mental creative freedom you need something to take you away from the logical processes of the mind.
To an extent Bill Hicks had a point- while many people see this as a modern phenomenon it goes back to the Romantic poets and their usage of opium as a method of expanding their creative horizons. In all likelihood creative individuals have probably used similar stimulants before that in order to function.
However using Bill Hicks as a symbol of this freedom is misleading- during the peak of his fame he was in actual fact clean (indeed one part of his routine had him quipping that he would quit smoking "to see if Dennis Leary would do it.")
The fact is that there are plenty of people who take drugs, drink coffee and so forth that do not create iconic works of art or literature. While it is true that these things can be used to awaken the mind equally these can be crutches and diversions that prevent people from being able to get down to the process of doing the work.
The drug myth also often seems tied in with the myth of "divine" inspiration. While this can happen (allegedly the idea for the Terminator came to the director James Cameron in a dream) often this work tends to be as a result of a long and drawn out process that requires a lot of hard work and a degree of logical thinking in order to shape a creative project into something that works.
What people don't like to hear is that the creative process is very rarely an overnight sensation. Often if you are working at a day job you tend to think of the creative process of being fun or something only available to a select few people who the Gods have blessed with the gift of creative ability. The reality is that most things that people think of as overnight sensations tend to be the result of years of hard work and rejection... think of the amount of publishers who must be kicking themselves for turning down Harry Potter!
The first thing to realize before you sit down to work on a creative project is to not be intimidated. It doesn't have to be an iconic work of art. Often one thing that stops people writing or drawing is the thought that everything placed on paper or on the computer has to be brilliant. The opposite is actually true- being prepared to work through your ideas can make it easier to process them and make it easier to place them in a structure.
The next part is getting through the work to completion. It can be hard and it is often at this point that people feel the need to stop for coffee, drinks etc. This can be part of the process and if it helps you then that's fine (although if it's illegal it's not advisable and I don't advise it!)
However as boring as it is the real key to creativity is the act of being creative. In the music biopic spoof Walk Hard the song A Beautiful Ride talks of "making a little music every day until you die." This doesn't solely apply to music- if you are a creative person you will get the full benefit if you try to create something each day.
Put your thinking cap on and get creative.