Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Magic Pill

Nope! Not paranoid at all...
That title's going to bring the spambots, isn't it?

Sigh.

Anyway, there's no magic formula or magic pill or magic bullet or anything 'magic' that'll make you smarter, more attractive or more anything that you're not already. We've all been searching for that mythical 'fountain of youth' for centuries, hell - millennia and no one's found it yet. The spambots promise quick everything and none of it works (despite 'testimonials' to the contrary) except to separate the desperate person from his cash quickly. That's it.

Even in Jack and the Beanstalk that magic bean brings a whole heap of trouble. There's no substitute to doing the hard work yourself.

That is, until you watch Limitless with Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and Robert DeNiro. It's based on a novel by Alan Glynn, The Dark Fields, but is apparently only readily available in the US as the movie tie-in. Here's the description:

A burnout at thirty-five, months behind on his book, low on cash, and something of a loser, Eddie Spinola could use a shot in the arm. One day he randomly runs into Vernon, his ex-wife’s brother, and his ex-dealer. Now employed by a shadowy pharmaceutical company, Vernon has something that might help: a new designer drug that stimulates brain function. One pill and Eddie is hooked. 

Of course he finishes the book and his editor is amazed he's done so. ("It's a little grandiose, but...") He also cleans his apartment. This is important to the film (because I haven't read the book). Eddie is so focused that he eliminates all distractions.

As a writer watching this, I was taken with the idea of science making 'magic' a reality. I love the idea. One of the conversations that Eddie has after he's deep into using is telling: he says that people tend to overreach. And he's right.

Now the film takes a bunch of twists and turns from there and I don't want to give it away because even though I was a little ambivalent about the ending, I didn't really see it coming. It was the lesser of my possibilities as we watched and a little disappointing. A little too happy. Anyway. No spoilers on this one.

But there's no magic pill that will awaken your ability to use the entirety of your brain. There's nothing that will allow you to do the kinds of things that Eddie does here. I have no desire to play the stock market but learning a language in a day or so would be pretty cool. Just being able to see all kinds of data and then being able to process it would be very, very cool. But it's not possible.

Nothing makes doing the work easier but doing the work in the first place. That's what prepares you for the next steps and more hard work.

Would I take the magic pill if I knew it existed and had the opportunity? I don't know. That's the truth. Part of me screams "Of course you would, damn it! That's the way to achieve what you want - to be a full-time writer!" But I've spent too long already pondering the darker aspects of the magic pill or potion or ring or whatever. There are a lot of downsides to the easy path. Most of them involve your loved ones being in danger.

But it's damn attractive to think about that pill. It's fascinating, really. I might take it.

Because then I'd be able to deal with whatever came, right?

As a film, I really liked Limitless. I recommend it as a fun distraction from writing that should give a lot of creative types pause. The possibilities are staggering and fascinating and cautionary.

But there's no magic pill for when it's over and you want to write. You'll have to do the work yourself.