Writing as a physical and mental state

I commented today on ThePassiveVoice post on Creativity and Madness

“Unfortunately, drugs of all kinds – for sleep and for pain – have somewhat of the same effect.

And some of us find that being properly medicated means we’re also in a state in which that last little creative bit that allows words of fiction to flow out of the ends of our fingertips is muted out of reach. It’s one of the daily hard choices we have to make.”

And it took me until now to realize that, having taken a muscle relaxant dose (half a dose) last night, a very necessary choice for the particular pain that has been bedeviling me for over two weeks, the reason today’s words felt like dead rocks I had dragged from the deepest pool is exactly that: the aftereffect of the drug.

My body doesn’t process things right. I can’t drink, and I seem to take a long time breaking the alcohol or drugs down (in my liver?) so that the pieces can be discarded.

It is inconvenient, and sometimes circular: if I don’t take something, I can’t get to sleep, so I won’t be able to write because I will be too exhausted to be coherent – but IF I take the something, I can’t write anyway because the after effect of even a tiny dose of Melatonin (1/4 of a 3 mg. tablet) or a 1/4 of a muscle relaxant (the silly doctor said I could take up to three a day!) are a brain that feels congested, mushy, clogged, and is incapable of fiction. Brain fogged.

It writes other stuff – like this – sometimes. Other times it writes absolutely nothing.

Creating fiction

But I only care about the fiction – and for that I must be drug-free, alcohol-free, RELATIVELY pain-free – and rested.

The solution which works a lot of the time is to micromanage my sleep/wake cycle (I use a light therapy box on winter mornings, try my damnedest to get to bed (a difficult task because it requires a major decision when all of my decision-making capacity is long gone for the day) at approximately the same time.

And getting up at approximately the same time, regardless of the sleep or its quality (I compensate by taking extra naps throughout the day if necessary).

And to not take the drugs for sleep or pain – and try to breathe my way through both. Sneak around the brain fog.

It’s extremely boring to write about, much more to do.

But it sort of works, and, over the long haul, the words appear, get sorted, dance and sing.

But if you ever wonder why I’m so slow, this is a great part of it.


Whaddayaknow? I’m heroic.


10 thoughts on “Writing as a physical and mental state

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks. I like Tennis’ definition – and I remember it when my heroism seems so tiny. Don’t worry about too far ahead or too far behind, just take the next step in the right direction.

      Some days it’s as heroic as, “Okay – go to bed now, so you can get up to write.” “I don’t wanna.” “Do it anyway.” (I talk to myself a lot).


      1. juliabarrett

        Well, is it heroic or simply that I don’t have a choice? I really don’t have a choice so I do it or I don’t walk. 🙂


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          You always have choices: how far will you go in rehab, how functional are you willing to work how hard for.

          I’m losing the battle to walk around the block; I’m not going to ‘take that one lying down’ – but the exercises are exhausting and excruciating, so I AM going to spend time making sure it is the most effective way. I don’t give up without a fight.


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