More famous writers than you probably realise were alcoholics. And judging by their game it doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted the quality of their work. I sometimes have a drink while writing and find it helps my creativity greatly. I know people in other creative industries who do the same too. My inner critic becomes silenced and the connection from my brain to my hand is much more fluid.
Surely then it’s just a natural progression that other drugs could help the creative process as well.
I can name a few authors I enjoy reading who were known for their use of drugs. Philip K. Dick springs to mind, the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (later adapted in to the film Blade Runner) who descended in to amphetamine abuse during his life. Philip K. Dick was an incredibly prolific writer, publishing 44 novels and writing hundreds of short stories during his life. While he suffered in the long run from drug abuse, I find myself asking whether his use of drugs was beneficial to his writing. Would he have written about and explored such interesting concepts if he had never touched drugs during his life?
“Psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen…”
— Alan Watts, (Joyous Cosmology Prologue, 2nd ed. 1970).
I have to agree with my favourite philosopher Alan Watts here. Just so long as you are capable of knowing when to stop, I think drugs can be a powerful tool for self-awareness and exploration. All drugs, from caffeine to LSD, have their positive and negative sides. Just because something is socially acceptable to consume doesn’t mean it’s any safer than something declared illegal. It’s obviously a difficult subject to approach though, as social stigma means any real honest discussion on the benefits of drugs happens behind closed doors.
So what do you think, can drugs have a positive impact on creativity? Or is anything more than morning coffee just a path to ruin?
© 2015, Gavin Zanker. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Photo by Jose Venegas licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.