Creativity & Substance Use: Myths
There’s this myth that consuming substances like marijuana, psychedelics, or club drugs gets our creative juices flowing. Maybe we can attribute it to all the famous writers–Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers–who struggled with alcoholism.
Or perhaps the myth comes from famous musicians who struggled with substance abuse: David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston.
However it began, the misconception that creativity flowers under the influence of addictive substances is damaging. It becomes an excuse for “creative types” to use substances and, arguably, ends up compromising their work rather than enhancing it.
We’re all creative creatures, some more than others–and we all have that capacity to produce something new. And yes, it can be difficult to remove ourselves from day-to-day routines to connect with the part of ourselves that imagines, invents, creates, or plays.
Creativity & Recovery: Some Stimulating Ideas
But substances aren’t the answer to finding that creative mindset. Instead, a clear mind and heart are required. In fact, exercising creativity is an important part of our well-being, especially for those in addiction recovery. And sobriety creates the time and opportunity to stimulate and reconnect with our creative side.
Today’s post is all about how you can stimulate your creative energy as you recover.
Nature Is Pretty Neat
Being in nature gets creativity flowing. You don’t have to climb mountains, go cold-camping, or geo-tag every activity you do outside–a simple walk through the woods or around your neighborhood can spark creativity.
It’s tried and true that time outdoors, breathing in fresh air, actually enhances your creativity by:
- Augmenting your creative thought processes
- Recalibrating your attention and directing it to budding concepts and inspirations
- Nurturing two phases of the creative process: the incubation and creative process
- Restoring our notions and understanding of nature, space, and serenity: three crucial aspects of producing a creative work
Honestly, there’s no downside to getting outdoors. If you’re not amping up your creativity outside, at the very least you’ll be getting some much-needed vitamin D.
Experience Something New
Learning is an important part of the creative process and inherently triggers it. You can learn in both informal and formal ways. Informally, you can seek out a new experience. Never been to a synagogue or mosque? Find out when services are offered and what the protocol is for newcomers, and check it out. Experiencing different expressions of spirituality is a rich way to connect to your own creativity and spirituality.
Or, you could go the formal route and take a class. Want to play the banjo as well as Steve Martin? Take banjo lessons! Want to paint Jim Carrey-style? Check out all the different classes you can take here in Iowa that have to do with painting!
All of the space in the brain and the heart that is freed up with sobriety can be filled with a new habit or practice–and why not choose something that stimulates creativity?
Carry a Notebook for Inspiration
Carrying a small notebook with you, with the purpose of using it to jot down whatever catches your eyes or ears throughout the day, reminds you to pay attention. It reminds you that there is another layer to life underneath your usual routine, and if you just take a moment to observe a situation or place or person in a new way, doorways to creativity can open.
You can write (or draw) snippets of overheard conversation, descriptions of an unusual object or unexpected scene or strange smell, random thoughts, new or unusual words–whatever catches your senses.
You may not use most of these notes in a formal way, but some of them may spark an idea–and the daily process of putting yourself in a creative space will make it easier to dedicate longer periods of time to creative pursuits.
Allow Boredom–Just a Little
They say that boredom, to the person in addiction recovery, can be a trigger for relapse. And there’s truth to that: when the mind has nothing to divert its attention, it might easily stray toward thoughts of drinking or using. But the effort to avoid boredom can be taken too far. Constantly distracting ourselves with technology or media keeps us from experiencing the quiet moments in which creative ideas are born.
In other words, we need a certain amount of boredom to feel and be creative. According to an article in Forbes magazine, “Boredom can actually foster creative ideas, refilling your dwindling reservoir, replenishing your work mojo and providing an incubation period for embryonic work ideas to hatch. In those moments that might seem boring, empty and needless, strategies and solutions that have been there all along in some embryonic form are given space and come to life.”
In addition, disconnecting from technology allows us to get a break from other people’s content. It’s hard to come up with our own ideas when we are constantly reading or liking others’ photos, drawings, music, posts, etc.
Inspiration Is Cool, but It’s Not the Be-All-End-All
While it may sometimes be true that inspiration, or a muse, is the impetus for creative expression, waiting for inspiration can easily turn into an excuse to avoid creative work. Instead, foster time and space for creativity. Dedicate some time each day (or week) to creative work, and do this work in a place that you design to support your effort–a place that is quiet, calming, and filled with whatever you find inspiring. This habitual practice can only yield creative results.
We’re Ready to Help
St. Gregory Recovery Center understands that addiction recovery can take all of the creativity we possess. Learning how to build a new life without substances takes dedication, inspiration, and creative thinking. Making time for creative self-expression can be a wonderful way to give yourself a sense of purpose and fulfillment beyond the daily routine.