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7 ways to get into a creative state without drugs or alcohol

Drugs can create a wall to creativity

By Ted Brown, Singer, Songwriter and Former Addict

After years of believing that my creative inspiration was only available with the help of mind and mood altering substances, it was a slow process coming to believe that my work as an artist was not at the beck and call of my addiction. I couldn’t deny that at some point in my using history (before I became hopelessly addicted) that some of my substance use had ‘opened me up’ creatively, but for the last several years I used, drugs became the wall between me and my creativity rather than the conduit.

Until I had permitted myself to try writing songs in recovery, it was unclear whether I would be able to access that intangible flow of creativity without drugs and if I could, what the results would be.  I believe my first attempt came in treatment when I wrote a short satirical blues in honor of one of my counselors entitled,’If You Do What You’ve Always Done, You’ll Get What You Always Got’ which was a parody of one of her most often repeated pieces of advice! For me, writing something light and fitting it easily into a standard 12 bar seemed like an easy stepping off point.

After that, the universe provided me with all the opportunities and inspiration I needed to reinvent myself as a much better songwriter and performer than I had ever been while using. I’ve written a lot of songs since I’ve been clean and sober, some have come easier than others, but I know now for sure that I’m a more creative and capable person since getting clean with the patience and focus to follow projects through.

How to access creativity without drugs or alcohol

Here are some ways I’ve learned to access my creativity without drugs and alcohol…

1. Just Write!

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Inspiration might meet me half way, but if I don’t make the effort ideas don’t (often) just fall out of the sky! I’ve found that setting aside time to just write down whatever comes into my head is a great way to get the juices flowing.

2. Read a lot.

I’m an avid reader, disappearing into a book was probably my first form of escaping reality. Now it’s easier than ever to access news, ideas and literature than can be inspiring and thought provoking.

3. Carry a notebook.

If I have a moment of inspiration, I’ll usually sing melodies into my phone so I don’t forget them. I also have a notebook on hand so I can jot down lyric ideas. Believing that I would ‘just remember’ has caused many good ideas to be lost forever!

4. Meditate.

Daily meditation has been a revelation to me. Half an hour every morning clears my creative canvas and leaves me open to inspiration and possibility.

5. Collaborate.

Holding on too tightly to my creative ideas sometimes means they just don’t end up seeing the light of day. By working and collaborating with other creative people, I get to see different perspectives and ways of thinking that help me grow as an artist and build a creative community.

6. Be of service.

Service to others is one of the most powerful antidotes to the self centeredness of addiction. It allows me to get my problems into perspective and helps me get out of my own head. It also helps me work on empathy which is key in creating art that people can relate to.

7. Discard the ‘black and white’ thinking.

When I finally got clean I spent quite some time struggling with the notion that I had a decision to make- grow up and get a real job or commit to a life of poverty and living in the margins so that I could follow my artistic dreams. Turns out that life isn’t so black and white! I’ve found that I’m capable of playing many roles and taking on responsibilities that I never dreamed I was capable of. But I will always be an artist, I will always create- it’s just who I am.

Photo credit: AnnSoDesign

Leave a Reply

3 Responses to “7 ways to get into a creative state without drugs or alcohol
DC
5:06 am August 23rd, 2013

Loved Ted Browns blog, a big issue for a lot of creatives I know who have been seduced into believing it is the drug that does the creating. DC

Joanna Poppink
9:24 pm March 16th, 2014

Excellent article. I’m adding more points to your list.

Reduce or stop doing anything or consuming anything that contributes to foggy brain.

That usually means

get eight hours of sleep, routinely
eliminate processed sugar and chemicals from your diet
exercise moderately and regularly
eat three meals a day moderately and regularly
Make your bed in the morning
Yes. This lets your unconscious know that you’ve taken care of unfinished business and are
prepared to start anew. That lets your creativity come in with more energy.
Find something everyday that makes you laugh out loud.
Yes. Laughter is a signal that you’ve broken preconceived notions and experienced a new
or creative approach. That opens you up for more creativity.

And more….. thank goodness.

Joanna Poppink
Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist
author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder

David
12:55 pm March 17th, 2014

Simply living ‘clean’ is an act of creativity as every action, particularly in the early years, is new in so far as every act has no reference point other than in the drugged state. Clean and sober pure and simple is the single greatest act of creativity that can be imagined. From there then all is possible

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