Co-Dependant Writing

Years and years ago, I used to smoke. I know, pretty gross. I started when I was about 11 years old (it was the 80’s dammit) and I was maybe 26 or 27 when I stopped. I didn’t smoke steadily thru all those years, sometimes I would go a year or two without touching them and then relapse back again, mostly because I was around a lot of smokers all the time. But its been over ten years now since I quit.

I especially used to smoke a lot while writing. Even now when I write I sometimes still get the occasional urge to light up a cigarette. Not a craving for nicotine, that passed over a decade ago. And definitely not for the smell or taste, which I find completely repulsive now. But just for the ritual of it. It was an integral part of the writing process for me. When I was thinking of the next sentence or trying to find that perfect word or phrase, I would put down my pen or, once I got a computer, lean back from the keyboard and light up a cigarette and smoke until I was ready to continue writing.

I never feel like smoking at any other time other than when I’m writing tho. I would never actually take up smoking again, even if I thought it would help me write. I can’t stand cigarettes or cigarette smoke. The smell of it actually makes me nauseous now. I avoid smokers like the plague. Very few of my friends or family members smoke and nobody is allowed to smoke inside my house. If I am forced to spend time in a smokey environment I have to go home and take a shower afterwards to get the smell off. So there is no danger of me ever becoming a smoker again.

But I wish there was a way for me to recreate that ritual that’s less disgusting and wont give me cancer. I know some people substitute candy or something, but because I also have a compulsive eating problem, replacing the cigarettes with something like lollipops will only result in me eating the whole package of lollipops and not getting any writing done at all. I don’t want to replace one unhealthy writing ritual with another. Especially since I have the activity level and metabolic rate of a boulder.

I think I need something tho. As somebody with OCD, rituals and systematic processes to doing things are a very important part of getting anything done. And I think that may be part of the reason I am having so much trouble writing. I have no process anymore. I always had a process, whether it was a time of day, or the place I sat, or smoking a cigarette, or using the same pen and notebook, there was always something. The closest thing I have to a process right now is the creative writing group I go to twice a month. Which is really the only time I can guarantee that I will definitely get any writing done. But, lets face it, I’m not gonna get a book written writing for an hour twice a month, not unless I want to be writing it until im eighty.

At the moment I also have no writing space that’s just mine to write in. I have my office, but its in complete disarray right now. Last spring I packed all my belongings up so the room could be used temporarily as a bedroom by my daughter and her husband, and even before that it was more a guest room then an office. There was always a bed in there and since at least one of my children lived with my ex-husband at any given time, that room was used by them whenever they came to visit. And it looks like I might possibly have to re-pack it up in the near future to use as a bedroom again, which is why I havent bothered to finish unpacking it. So it’s still never really been my own space. In a house as small as mine, personal space is very hard for me to come by. And I need a space that is mine to do things my way. As an only child with two working parents and virtually no friends, I grew up alone with a lot of privacy and personal space in which I could do pretty much whatever I wanted in whatever way I wanted to do it with very little outside interference. I know it’s not realistic to expect that kind of space and freedom when I live with so many people.

But right now everything is chaos.

And I need something to enable me to write again. I just have to figure out what it is.

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4 responses

  1. I used to smoke. Like you, I did it on and off over the years. I finally quit for good and I know I will never smoke again for the same reasons as you. I understand the “ritual” of smoking. I remember in the evening I would go outside and sit on the back steps at sun set with a cigarette. I would enjoy the sounds coming from the little pond in the backyard. I loved that time of day. Honestly, when I quit smoking I never thought I would ever enjoy a sunset again. Ah, but time heals all. I don’t want to say there isn’t anything but I have never found anything quite as, oh hell, I don’t even have a word for it. I do light candles now. It is a newer ritual that I enjoy. Though I don’t leave them on for long. I know I would forget them and burn the house to the ground.

  2. How about a cup of green tea? I think that’s supposed to be healthy, or at least not unhealthy… Maybe gum? I don’t know.

    When I’m reading and I get to a point where nothing is coming to me I find that reading something else breaks the dam. When I get ready to start writing again I’m normally able to pick up where I left off with no troubles.

  3. I’m pushing fifty. Until I was 46, I’d probably drank 10 cups of coffee in my entire life. Then I started falling asleep on the 45-min drive into and back from the office. My doctor gave me three choices: he could prescribe drugs (which I hate), I could drink coffee, or he could pull my driver’s license. I chose the coffee.

    Four years later, I don’t need it anymore (the stressful event that caused the sleepiness issue is long past), but I still have a couple of cups through the day. The first one is the one I pour as I head to the laptop sitting in the dining room.

    Now, I have an office, a dedicated space to work, but I find myself distracted by Facebook, Twitter, checking to see how many hits my blog got today, etc…

    So I give myself about 20 minutes on that laptop to get 500 words down. Yes, the coffee’s usually gone long before then, but the times when I’m left with half a cup of cold coffee? Those are the days the words flowed.

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