The Double Bubble Effect: Rituals and Creative Flow.

Back when I was flying professionally, I was required to go to training every six months to practice malfunctions and potential issues that rarely come up in airplanes, and to take a test to make sure I was still qualified to be in charge of the cockpit. The four-day recurrent course included daily ground school plus four-hour simulator sessions. I can’t be certain if this is when I became a bubble gum hound, but what I know for sure is that by the time I was a captain, I averaged eighteen sticks of Extra Bubble Gum per simulator session; Eighteen times four days, twice a year, equals 144 pieces—a heck of a lot of gum.

Plent T packs is what Wrigley used to call them, but clearly the marketers had never been through a rigorous flight simulator regiment, since by the end of four hours of catastrophic engine failures, electrical fires, explosive decompressions, icing issues, and unexpected close encounters with vehicles on the runway and flocks of Canadian Geese, Plent T proved to be barely enough. Like I said, I have no idea how this pack-of-mega-gum-per-training-day ritual began, but the one thing I’m sure of is that since I chewed like a horse, my ritual drove both my simulator flight partner and my instructor nuts. Regardless of their sighs and complaints, I seemed to handle in-flight emergencies better with a stick of gum in my mouth. Perhaps it was helpful to have something to gnaw on to diffuse stress. I also considered the rationale that the sugar amped my abilities. But at that time, I only chewed sugarless. I’m guessing it was the cadence that the chewing motion created. The sort of rhythm that when multiple malfunctions started piling up in the cockpit, would help me organize and prioritize the crisis’, and keep the airplane flying wings level. A bubble gum groove if you will. Perhaps a carryover from my pink bubble gum ice cream incident during my first time in a small airplane. (Click here to read about it.) Whatever the reason, it worked, because I passed every check ride I took.

When I left professional flying and became an author, I’m sure Wrigley’s stock took a huge hit. My pack-a-day habit, had diminished into an occasional breath mint. (My condolences to the gum giant.) Not too long ago I was parked in front of my computer, staring at a blank screen, desperate to get my creative mojo jump-started. My mind was wandering to anything but the task at hand—cleaning the oven, organizing the junk drawer, catching up on hours in my flight log book; long before I had figured out my write-o-rhythm—when the words Double Bubble popped into my head. Double Bubble? I queried my roaming thoughts, certain that I must of misunderstood, since I still do my best to avoid snacks that send me spinning on sugar. Fortunate for me, though, my husband, The Red Baron, doesn’t observe the same regiment. I unglued my half moons from my writing seat, and beelined for the Baron’s candy counter to find a mason jar, brimming with yellow and blue twisted DB. I popped the lid, swapped four pieces, and marched back to my writing desk. I examines the blue and yellow wrapper, remembering how gum had helped me in the flight simulator but wondered why I heard Double Bubble instead of pink, sugar-free Extra. I twisted the gum pellet between my fingers and listened for any rational explanation. Crickets. I thought about the worst case scenario. If I started to spin on sugar, I could always go out for a run. I unwrapped the pink-powdered piece of bubblegum and set it on my tongue. Instantly, a flavor I hadn’t tasted for years flooded my mouth. I worked the gum between my teeth until the chunk became soft, and after a few minutes of chomping, I actually blew a bubble. I sucked the sticky pink bubble back in my mouth, closed my lips and held it there until it popped, and before I knew what was happening, my fingers flew over the keyboard. The rhythm I had forgotten returned like a dance I used to know but hadn’t done for awhile. Lines of text appeared, and I wrote and chewed, chewed and wrote until the gum lost its flavor. Next. Without hesitation, I opened another wrapper and by the time I had worked my fourth piece of Double Bubble, I had written five thousand words. I had found my groove!

I realize that all you clean eaters are probably cringing right now. Make no mistake, I understand your concern. I’m not advocating a daily Double Bubble regiment, but only suggesting that when experiencing a particularly challenging writing day, you may need a ritual to rise to the next level. For whatever reason, the act of chewing gum kicks me into uber mode, and has proven to be, not just once, but twice, my game-on ritual.

E.L. Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Makers/Coming soon: The Surge

Secretly wondering if anyone has ever croaked from a Double Bubble overdose?

aka The Glamorous Wife

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