Friday January 31, 2020

By Andrew Ward

Creative Writing and Cannabis: Does Being High Help or Harm Writers? 420 Culture

Does getting high help your writing? According to some anecdotal feedback, yes. However, it often comes with its own caveats that can derail the writing process. To better understand the matter, it’s vital to dive into both the information provided by data and the creative writing community taking part in some pot.

Studies on Marijuana’s Impact on Creativity and Writing High

There is little to no actual data linking cannabis and creativity. That said, you've likely heard at least some person along the way discuss how getting high helps them with the creative process. Turns out, that's a rather common response among smokers, even if they can't back it up.

A 2017 study out of Washington State University found that of the over 700 smokers and non-smokers they polled, cannabis smokers self-reported higher levels of creativity.

While possibly true, subjects weren't asked to produce any work, be it writing or otherwise, to prove their self-estimation. Smokers were also more likely to be extroverted and open to trying new experiences. So, consider that how you'd like.

Another 2017 study intended to focus on mood as well as creativity. The research, conducted at Humboldt State University, not only focused on pot's influence on the creative mind but also the notion that a depressed artist is more creative than one in good spirits.

Creativity
There isn't much scientific research on cannabis and creativity. photo credit

The study's researchers did not report a link between cannabis and creativity. That said, its conclusions did acknowledge heavy consumers having a higher lifetime creativity score. "Thus, with respect to the perspective that cannabis use increases creativity, we concluded this is only a perception for momentary creativity. However it is possible that heavy cannabis use is associated with increased creativity over lifetime (CAQ)," the report concluded.

A Hit or Miss Sort of Solution for Creative Writing

In our independent research while writing this article, most respondents said that they used cannabis to help free their minds from mental blocks or stimulate themselves in a similar process. "I've found that the insights I gain from the experience of getting high help me make sense of my world and then write about it," said speaker and entrepreneur Melissa Drake.

Ben Bryant has used cannabis on and off for decades. In the early '80s, Bryant was writing a screenplay called Warrior, influenced by Carlos Castaneda's books. When stuck writing, he'd reach for a joint made of his own homegrown pot. "When I was writing and got stuck, I’d have a couple of hits, and the mental logjam would dissipate," he explained.

However, Bryant found himself having to adhere to the cannabis version of "write drunk, edit sober." The screenwriter explained, "The resulting writing was always way too loquacious, as was I in conversation when high. So after breaking the block with the garrulous green and regaining my normal state I’d edit the verbose verbiage and proceed with my normal process."

Writing
Many writers have different opinions on writing while high. photo credit

Writers considering getting high should consider the project being undertaken, as Fashion Blogger and Copywriter Snezhina Piskova detailed. After four years of college and writing in the Netherlands left Piskova with distinct experiences between assignment and personal writing. Stoned assignment writing was not a pleasant combination, she recalled. “I tend to stress out about not having enough time, of failing, and of being judged, and this stress is all just too much for me to handle sometimes.”

On the contrary, when writing for personal gain, Piskova said her mind is in a different state. “Since I don’t have to answer to anybody, I can allow myself to smoke a joint and indulge in curious and interesting whims that pop in my head.” Piskova added, “I use [cannabis] as a means to more openly express myself and to see how wacky my imagination can get. In these moments, I can completely relax and go on autopilot.”

Does Marijuana Dosage Matter?

Dosage may be crucial when it comes to working high in the writing field. Steven Mike Voser, a freelance journalist and musician, found success in small applications. "At work, for example, I've found that a microdose just before I start writing an article can help me stay focused on that particular task," said Voser. On the other hand, large doses left Voser losing track of his work and anxious during presentations or meetings.

Like many of the writers who responded to this article, I have had mixed experiences as well. For me, I feel as if I catch a wave of creativity, sometimes even clarity when I first light up. Similar to Melissa Drake, I do often gain insights that may not have been as present beforehand. That clarity can often come as a rush of thoughts, sending me into a flurry of typing.

Cannabis
Be sure to experiment with dosage and strains to find what works best for you.

Often, the speed of that rush from my thoughts to my hands can make it extremely difficult to keep up. What usually ends up happening is I fall behind on typing down ideas, omitting key details or entire ideas in the process. Or, I’ll get sidetracked by one idea and go down a rabbit hole of researching and building one aspect out. Eventually, I’ll get tired and either want to smoke more or take a break, which often ends the writing for the time being.

If you find yourself in a situation like the one above, record your thoughts into your phone or a recorder. Doing so lets you dump out your thoughts as quickly as you can speak. You may end up with a wealth of ideas. Or, you may have something to have a laugh at when all is said and done.

Cannabis Affects Everyone Differently

Since there is minimal research out there surrounding cannabis and writing, it’s important to remember that marijuana affects everyone differently and that you might have a completely different experience than someone else. As evidenced by the varying perspectives from cannabis consumers above, people have different opinions on the effectiveness of marijuana as a creativity booster when writing.

The one consistent aspect when it comes to writing high is that your own personal relationship with cannabis plays a large role.

If you find cannabis to be a motivator that keeps you focused, writing high might be right up your alley. Conversely, if you get self-conscious, overwhelmed, or cloudy-headed when consuming marijuana, writing high could just as easily stall out your process. If you find writing high to be difficult or distracting, you may also want to do research and experimentation with other strains. Finding the right strain for you could be the key to achieving more productivity while high. Ultimately, it all depends on how you interact with cannabis personally and whether or not being high helps your creativity.

If your results are different than the ones described in this article, assess how cannabis makes you feel and the effect it has on your work. Remember that marijuana and its effects are far from one size fits all. Figure out how it works, or doesn’t, for your creative writing process and get to filling up those empty white pages.


Do you ever write while high? Do you feel it helps or harms your creative process? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Nick Morrison (license)


Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.