I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is Y for Your Addictions Have to Go.
Many people think of novelists (of all writers, really) as deep thinking older men who find their muse in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any addiction, whether alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography, will hamper your creativity. It doesn’t mean you can’t write great stuff while living with an addiction, but it will make the process a lot harder—not to mention the other problems addictions will bring into your life. To be the best writer you can be, your addictions have to go.
But what about those famous writers who’ve had addictions?
In his book entitled, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King, a recovering addict himself, has a lot to say about this1. He lays responsibility for the myth of the addicted writer at the feet of 4 specific examples of literary angst and despair: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet, Dylan Thomas. King’s opinion (and mine, as well) is that substance abusing writers are just substance abusers—plain and simple. While creative people may be more prone to addiction than the general public, they don’t need to be drunk, stoned, or otherwise tuned up to write. Any claim to the contrary is a lie.
How Alcohol and Drugs Affect the Brain
The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that marks addiction.” Drugs tap into, and interfere with, the brains communication system, leading to abnormal messages being sent. Drugs target the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, rewards, and feelings of pleasure. This causes the drug user to want to continue to use drugs. They are the only way to make the brain get those “reward” messages at those levels. When the drug is taken away, the person no longer responds to the things that normally would give them pleasure. This leads to feelings of depression. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Addiction and Creativity
While many creative people have addictions, those addictions don’t add to or benefit their creativity. Creative people may, however, be more prone to addictions. One drug treatment center’s website postulates that there are many similarities between the creative personality and the addictive personality. Many of these characteristics make one prone to addiction, including a tendency to act impulsively and an enjoyment of risk-taking.
It is well documented that drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances and activities do not enhance one’s creativity. The myth of the addiction as the artist’s muse is born of the fact that many creative people happen to become addicted people. They were always creative, and likely more productive prior to becoming addicted. The very definition of addiction is to put what you are addicted to before anything and everything else in life, including your art.
What to do about your addiction
There really isn’t a self-help guide to breaking an addiction. The best thing you can do is to seek professional help. The best addiction treatment center I know of is Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge serves men, women, and teens. They have centers all over the United States (and the world) and often accept people regardless of ability to pay. Contact the Teen Challenge center near you to find out how they can help you.
While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.
What are YOUR thoughts?
I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.
I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.
1 I highly recommend On Writing. It’s one of the best books on writing there is. Part memoir, part craft, it is sure to encourage and inform you. As a bonus, if you’ve ever read any of his books, hearing what went on behind the scenes as he wrote them will be especially enjoyable.