When we think of stunts, we think of stuff like this:
It’s fun to watch, but most of us will never do anything like it. But there are other kinds of stunts. A.J. Jacobs pulls what book critics call “literary stunts”. In a literary stunt, the author does something weird, like living according to every single law in the Bible (including stoning adulterers), then writes about the experience.
A successful stunt requires a writer who is passionate and open to change. In fact, change is crucial, almost mandatory—without it you won’t have much of a story. Luckily, if you take your stunt seriously you can’t help but change. When I was obeying the Bible, I came to realize how behavior shapes our thoughts: I forced myself to utter compassionate sentences, as the Bible instructed, and eventually I started to feel more compassion.
In fact, I think everyone—even those without book contracts—should do stunts. You don’t need to grow a beard and wear a linen robe, as I did. Try small experiments. Sample a new toothpaste every week. Swear off gossip for a day. Get your news from the opposition channel, be it Fox News or MSNBC. You’ll carve new neural pathways in your brain, which is always healthy.
I want to push things further. You don’t have to write to pull a stunt. Just pick a thing and a timeframe and do it. Blog optional.
Here are some ideas based on things actual people have told me they’ve done:
- Live using only natural light
- Change your diet
- Turn off your phone for an extended period of time
- Spend a long time in an unfamiliar (or very familiar) place
- Write a novel in a month
- Draw something for 4 or 8 hours
- Blindfold yourself for a day
- Take a short term vow of poverty or silence
- Try a new kind of exercise
You’ll start seeing the very idea of stunts differently. And who knows, you might try something as a stunt and end up doing it for the rest of your life.Related: Popular: