Smoking and Writing

As I sit in my bed with my left eye half open for the fifth day in a row from a migraine, I guess I’ll just write again. And before anyone says benadryl works wonders, the first and only time they gave it to me it stopped my heart as I wildly hallucinated that ceiling tiles were trying to eat me alive. I also can’t take excedrin because I’m on lithium. And Axert and all those other vasoconstrictors do nothing for me. So it’s fatty food with tons of salt, doubled multivitamins, and enough coffee to send my heart into afib. I’ve had migraines since I was ten, I have heard and tried every trick out there.

I also used to smoke during these times.

Cigarettes are the ultimate vasoconstrictor.

But I’m quitting.

Seriously thinking about buying a pack though.

I used to smoke a lot. I’m not going to go into details, but I rather wish I hadn’t started after seeing myself go through my first pack-a-day day. Thankfully I cut back, and now I haven’t had a cigarette in well over week. I’m not doing AA chips for it though. I don’t want to know how long I’ve been without one. I just know I’ve made it past the week mark for a while or there abouts and that I’m doing just fine. Got the patch and some gum. And would you know it? They work.

What really sent me over the edge in terms of smoking was writing my first novel. I live in Madison, WI, which means that smoking inside an apartment is just about never. But I could. And I did. The narrowed focus and ability to concentrate for hours on end is unmatched when chain smoking. What came next, what plot point would unfurl, what character arc would come next. It was all easier to do when smoking cigarette after cigarette.

The reason for why cigarettes help so much is likely due to them being a biphasic drug. A little of it, like one cigarette, is activating. Spacing them out over a day means being on the entire day. Shorten the time span between cigarettes and overload the brain on nicotine, and it becomes a depressant – like xanax. This is one of the reasons why chain smoking before a major exam or presentation helps. When writing, I would subconsciously use this to my advantage. A little to pick me up, and then when I was flying too fast for my own editing good, grab another two and calm down.

It’s a match made in heaven.

And now I’m trying to break that.

I have just enough nicotine in my system to keep the cravings away, and nothing more. Which makes writing an interesting adventure. I’ve smoked long enough that I don’t know what it’s like to write without a cigarette. And in some ways it’s better. I still have the habit of taking a five minute break here and there from writing to let my thoughts gel. I chew gum to keep something in my brain going and the saliva flowing. And I find that I’m more alert when I’m not buzzed on nitrites and nicotine and carbon monoxide.

So if you write, and you smoke, and have likely found the two go together. Grab some nicotine gum, grab a patch, and try quitting. It’s not the end of the world. I still write a great deal every day without cigarettes and I still kinda like what I write. Plus, you can always buy gum to keep around for when you need a small nicotine pick-me-up.


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