How to be creative without drugs or alcohol.

“Oh, how will I ever be creative without drugs?”…

…whine some recovering addicts. Well, creativity isn’t rocket science and the only fuel you need is already in you, says J.D this week.

It’s one of those artist clichés. The great creatively-inclined minds imbibed on mystical juices in order to get creative. It’s also a myth. Sort of.

It isn’t true that substances don’t help with creativity. The common refrain is: “You only think you were being creative.” But you really weren’t?

Tell that to what’s left of the Beatles. What with their smash hits, including the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds psychedelic playlist smiter. Or to Ernest Hemingway’s corpse, who famously said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” [There is contention about this quote, however.] There’s reasons why some creative people feel drugs or alcohol frees their creativity.

I don’t disagree that substances can help take writing and art-making to, ahaha, higher heights. There’s just the slight trade-off of possibly ruining your entire life.

I have been writing, editing, photographing, photo manipulating, art making, and painting for over one year and four months now without indulging in any form of substance – and I believe I’m just as good, if not better, than I was during my addiction years.

creative without drugs, How to be creative without drugs or alcohol., Best Addiction Rehabilitation  in South AfricaWhy?

Because, thanks to my time at Houghton House, and through continued therapy via their post-rehab treatment offerings, I’ve got a better understanding of what it means to be in a creative mind-state. And I no longer need to ‘force’ myself into it through intoxication.

The creative mind-state is, I believe, a moment of unification between the logical and the lateral sides of the brain. With the latter taking the former by the hand.

So this is how I do it:


Not chill, certainly not take a chill pill. But one way not to be creative is to try force yourself to be – especially when you don’t feel the vibe. Creativity requires you to gently prod your brain in the direction you want to go. For instance, when I’m designing a logo, I play around. I use logo creation programmes off the App Store that let you interact with different elements of a logo, such as the text, icons, badges, etc. and move them and place them, enlarge them and rotate them, etc.

I don’t try and have a fixed idea of what logo I want. I don’t try force-fit the elements on screen to match that. Instead, I use the idea for my logo as a guide only and play with the elements gently. I see how they look together. I make adjustments to each element based their relation to one another. How do I know when it’s working? It’s called…


We are all capable of looking at a piece of art and seeing what makes it sing. A logo that calls out to us. A photograph that feels just right. That’s because of a principle I call (it surely has another name) Elemental Relations. “Elements” is a division of a logo, art piece, or photograph to its most basic parts.

An example of an element would be the subject in a photograph. So, a clown. Like the guy from It. He’s (it’s?) an element that you shoot (not with a gun, won’t work, don’t bother) in relation to other elements (another subject, perhaps, staring into the sky, vacant eyed). So your elements in a shot would be balanced with the empty space around those elements. It’s about proportions. Just as a beautiful person’s facial features are all of a certain size and distance from each other that creates the beauty, so to with photography, art, and logos.

So when you shoot those elements, make sure they’re all balanced in the frame.

Oh yeah. Framing isn’t getting someone else well hung for the murder you just committed. It is the framing of the shot you want to take. A lot of people make the amateur mistake of shooting a subject in the direct middle of the frame. That’s not an aesthetically pleasing photo. You want to apply the rule of thirds. That’s when the subject is to the left or right of the centre point. And there’s empty space in the centre and the other side of the shot.

You’ll know it when you see it. Don’t just shoot…


I mentioned playing around before. Seems childish, right? Actually, it’s child-like. If it’s a story you’re writing, make the character do something really out of character… wait a second, maybe they’re like actual people: complicated? Oh em gee, stern Judge Jensen was wearing garters and a bra the whole time he was presiding the case! Or with photography, take a million photos of the same thing, take them all differently. Subject close; subject away; far-right like the fascists; far-left like the new fascists; look down at it like the bourgeois; look up like the proletariat; shoot shoot shoot like you’re a lone rifleman facing a Russian revolution.

It is a revolution. Because creativity is about…


Suddenly, you see the world in a new light. A shining, exciting new light. At least, one small, but still very titillating (I love that word) new light. Whatever it is you were doing, a novel, an art piece, a musical composition, or a photo, you will feel a cognitive jump. Your brain just made a leap between two vast neurological points, and the electric current surges across to make a new pathway. Your eyes light up, you experience headiness. Something, something, connected. If it was a novel, then it could be that a character you’re writing in a scene has an aspect of their personality magically revealed… as if they became alive. If an art piece, you’ve created a being almost independently of you – a shard of your soul now free in the world. If a piece of music, it’s the moment the violin flows into the pounding of the percussions, before the entire orchestra explodes into symphony. A photo, and you’ve captured the spirit of: the moment, the subject, or the landscape. In our featured image this week, it’s a boring old pine cone. But now it’s more than a pine cone. It is the pine cone.

Creativity and being creative without drugs really is that simple.

It doesn’t require magic. It’s not drugs-driven. The potential was always in you. Now… go.

Celebrate recovery. And create something special.