Smoking and Creativity
Molière: “No matter what Aristotle and the Philosophers say, nothing is equal to tobacco; it’s the passion of the well-bred, and he who lives without tobacco lives a life not worth living.”
“While I was doing Eraserhead I had 40 coffees every day and I smoked 40 cigarettes.” – David Lynch
Filmmaker, musician and visual artist David Lynch has also said, “Cigarettes are pretty much my worst vice, and I even stopped smoking for 20 years. I spend most of my free time with my family and working on art.”
But he is apparently still a chain smoker – a nicotine addict – like many other artists have been.
“It is no coincidence that one of the most prominent pro-smokers in Britain is David Hockney; and he is just one of many artists who can’t do without nicotine…consider a group photograph called The Irascibles, portraying the New York school of painters at the moment of their breakthrough in 1950.
“While Jackson Pollock manages to conceal any booze he may have about his person, Mark Rothko nervously holds a cigarette. In fact, almost every photo of Rothko shows this unhappy man smoking, without a trace of pleasure.”
[From ‘It’s about knowing you’ll die’ by Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, Sunday 13 May 2007.]
David Lynch has also commented, “But the problem is that the body, the physiology, takes a hard hit on drugs.” [From his book Catching the Big Fish.]
What are some of the impacts of smoking that may affect creativity?
The article Smoking Cessation Can Improve Personality in Young Adults (By Rick Nauert PhD, Psych Central, September 13, 2011) says a new research study by the University of Missouri compared people, aged 18-35, who smoked with those who had quit, and “found that individuals who smoked were higher in two distinct personality traits during young adulthood: Impulsivity – acting without thinking about the consequences; Neuroticism – being emotionally negative and anxious, most of the time.”
In her article Can Smoking Cause Depression?, Jane Collingwood writes, “Researchers have made bold claims about cigarette smoking leading to depression. It has long been known that smokers have higher rates of depression than nonsmokers, but researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand investigated the link further, and say they have found a causal relationship. The team took figures from over 1,000 men and women aged 18, 21 and 25 years. Smokers had more than twice the rate of depression.”
Here are a few articles on smoking and cognitive function, each of which includes references to more academic articles.
“Smoking was associated with greater risk of poor memory.” [Smoking history and cognitive function in middle age from the Whitehall II study.]
“Smoking creates stress between cigarettes, and removes it during and immediately after smoking.” [Smoking and Stress.]
“In addition to the effect of the urge, nicotine deprivation has some direct effect on the brain which slows down reaction times. If you smoke, how often are you in a withdrawal state? Whenever you go without smoking for over an hour or so, you’re in withdrawal, and at least one of your mental functions – reaction time – is not as working as sharply as it could if you were a non-smoker.” [Smoking may cause cognitive functions to decline.]
Quitting is not easy
A 2007 study in the British Medical Journal Lancet “ranked tobacco along with nineteen other abused substances on a scale of dependence and physical harm.
“Tobacco was more addictive than amphetamines, barbiturates, and alcohol. It placed about even with cocaine. The only abused drug that clearly beat it was heroin.”
From article Smoking Addiction on the site MyAddiction.com – which has many resources.
Also see the section here on Psych Central: Guide to Quit Smoking, By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
“Smoking, excessive drinking, gambling compulsively, and even overeating are habitual patterns of behavior that can be modified—with the right approach,” notes addiction psychologist Marc Kern, on his site HabitDoc – which includes his book and a number of informational videos and other resources on managing drug and behavioral addictions.
David Lynch quotes from thecityofabsurdity.com
Molière quote from post: Smoking and creativity: a few data points, March 12, 2011 by Wm Jas.
Book: Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, by David Lynch. “A window into the internationally acclaimed filmmaker’s methods as an artist, his personal working style, and the immense creative benefits he has experienced from the practice of meditation.”
Top photo from the Sight Unseen post David Lynch’s workshop in The Chronicle #2 07.15.11 — By Jill Singer. Lynch claims he had quit smoking.
Photo of Lynch by Chris Saunders/Courtesy of the artist, from NPR page First Listen: David Lynch, ‘Crazy Clown Time’ Oct 30 2011.
Photo: Scarlett Johansson smoking in 2007. She was “spotted taking a cigarette break on the set of her new film “Under the Skin” today (November 1, 2011).” [Scarlett Johansson: Smoking on the Set.]
Help yourself to give up Smoking, by Michele Carelse, Native Remedies
Altered States – Hypnosis Goes Mainstream, by Michael Waldholz, The Wall Street Journal
Eby, D. (2011). Smoking and Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/creative-mind/2011/11/smoking-and-creativity/