The only time I enjoy getting stoned is when I’m sitting at my laptop crafting a sentence. This is the only time the high is satisfying. Sure, I smoke on other occasions: when I park the van at the beach to watch sunset; before taking the dog for a walk; in the evening watching TV; after a workout, but none of these highs are as enjoyable or as potent.
I have a toking routine. I lift the lid on my laptop, open the text I’m working on, could be anything from a poem to a blog post. I lift the joint from the ashtray, spark it, take a drag. With my right hand, I scroll down the text I’m working on, re-reading it. I read and smoke. Until I get an idea, a way in, a word, maybe a sentence. This usually happens after the fourth of fifth drag. Then I put the joint down, start writing.
Sometimes it takes hours to smoke one joint because of all the interruptions – the writing of words on the page. The interruptions are the point. The joint is a portal, cannabis allowing me to get out of my way, to stop thinking and just write. Without the joint, I stare at the screen churning words over in my head, dismissing them as crap before they can reach my fingers and fill the page.
When I’m stoned, I can see inside my imagination, live inside the emotions of my characters, be in the scenes I’m crafting. It’s like watching a movie but the movie is in my head. The trick is to capture it as I see it. When the writing is flowing, I’m not a writer but a reporter, charting actions, describing scenes and recounting dialogue, all of it taking place in my mind.
CANNABIS AS A CREATIVE TOOL
This is my favourite way to spend a Friday night. There’s something about giving myself space to connect the loose threads of my thoughts and aim to give them shape in sentences that alchemizes my high into a potent head-rush. In these moments, I am not of or on this earth. I am not myself and yet, am most my Self. I feel nothing and everything.
I am a vessel with a heartbeat living a thousand lives in a breath. I am nonsensical and could care less. I’m lost in the words. They are flowing through me, electrifying my limbs, asking nothing of me bar my presence, forcing me to be present. I am now, unthinking, unquestioning, unblinking. I trust myself completely. I let myself write the crap because every thing can be edited. I let the words fill the page.
This is key to the writing process. You can’t edit a blank page. There has to be words on the page in the first place in order to create any piece of text. A misconception of the writing craft is that what most people read is writing. No. What most people read is the edited version of a piece of writing, a very different animal. Lack of editing is what makes most Internet writing or self-published books so weak.
Writing and editing are not the same thing, different functions that demand different brain power. I write well when stoned. I prefer to edit straight. That’s when I read the words out loud, assessing them for accuracy and flow. When I edit stoned, I got lost in the corrections, going off on tangents inspired by new random thoughts I can’t rein in. Cannabis is great for starting projects, not so great for finishing them.
CANNABIS AS A DOOR TO CHAOS
In my attempts to give order to chaos in my head, cannabis is a tool, but not always. As well as when editing, I tend not to toke before client work, as it’s also a different kind of thinking. If I smoke while writing for a client, I get stressed, annoyed by my fuzzy thoughts and questionable logic. Instead of giving myself free reign, I question everything.
In these moments, I need urgency to get the work done. I’m not a last-minute person, not at all. But I draw on the frantic energy created by a deadline to push myself to limits. I used to tell myself I liked operating at the limits created by the uncertainty of the freelance writing life. This is no longer true, and maybe never was. Like most things, the truth is more nuanced.
It’s not easy being a writer. That said it’s not difficult in the way being a miner or surgeon is difficult. The difficulty comes from the willingness to commit to craft and to keep going even as doors are slamming in your face. And until recognition comes, it means all the work is in service to a future paycheck that may or may not come, a set up that can feel both thrilling and threatening.
Cannabis is helpful here, allowing me to get centered, focus on the process, and forget about outcomes. This is both a good and a bad thing. It means I can get up again after a fall. It means I have a habit of getting lost in lots of projects. It means I don’t see an end to projects so they just keep going. And as the projects linger unfinished, bit by bit, the chaos seeps out of cannabis and into my life.
CANNABIS AS A CREATIVE LIE
I spent seven years on a novel. Ditching it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Once I did, it opened up the space to write another novel. I’ve finished the first draft on this new novel and am working with an editor. This one is not going to get away from me. To get it finished, I not only have to cut back on cannabis (I’m entering into the editing phase soon), I have to rethink my creative life.
I truly admire writers who can work as journalists or copywriters, and keep their creative projects on the side, using one work to fire the other. For years I told myself I could do some version of this though I’ve never thought as myself as a journalist, and I’m not. I’ve zero interest in reporting on the blunt facts of daily events. What interests me is truths that can’t be seen or measured, a bigger picture.
As an Aquarian, I’ve always been drawn to the mystical, as it’s here that my imagination is most alive, and cannabis adds to that fire. But it’s not the work of journalism or even copywriting, both of which are writing as profession with clearly defined parameters, restraints that stifle my creativity.
Yet, I tried for decades to maintain the illusion that I could juggle a creative writing life and a professional writing life because it was a way to earn money from writing. In that way, I could tell myself I was a “writer.” It wasn’t the writing goal I wanted but writing paid my bills and that made it real, made me real. In reality, I was a hack, riddled with shame for being too cowardly to commit to my true goals.
CANNABIS AS HOLDER OF DREAMS
Cannabis is a great balm in these moments too, fudging the reality of any bleak situation, and captivating the mind with the illusion of the greatness you will one day achieve when you reach your illusive goal. But this is also exactly how I spent so long doing the wrong kind of writing, and editing a novel that was going nowhere. Instead of using cannabis to fire my creativity, I misused her to get me through the drudgery of work I hated doing.
In the end, it doesn’t matter that I misused her because even the misuse didn’t drown out the cry of my psyche for something different, or mute the sheen of my true goals. If anything, it amplified them, tormenting me daily with an ever-growing sense of shame, a continuous reminder there’s something else to which I want to dedicate my time.
I’ll give you an example of how she works. There’s a song called Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce that goes, “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.” This song has been on loop in my mind for years. The push of it is so strong, sometimes, I find myself singing it out loud when I’m walking the dog or in the supermarket, my psyche bursting out of me, uninvited, always present.
This is what she says: I’ve spent the last thirteen years learning the craft of creative writing. I’m willing to spend another thirteen more. I am a poet. I’m a performer. I’m a sensitive soul in search of connection. I thank cannabis for getting me this far. I thank her for holding my voice and giving me a story. I thank her for making me present. But she can’t make me brave. Only I can do that.