A few days ago I read an article about an artist called Bryan Lewis Saunders who had done 30 self-portraits under the influence of 30 drugs, both illegal and legal, in 30 days. But as fascinating it was to see the different effect each drug had on the art and the artist, the pieces exist outside of who (and what) created them. Art isn’t good because it was created under the influence of drugs, it’s good because we deem it to be.
Sometimes people make things on drugs, and sometimes they’re good. This is also true of people who don’t take drugs and make things. I’ve found no inspiration in drugs, but that’s okay, I’ll find it elsewhere.
What I’m saying is, people get lucky. A writer might have a good opium trip and write Perfect Day, but not all of us who use will be the next Lou Reed. For drugs to boost your creativity there has to be something there to start with, some spark of an idea, otherwise you’re just another wanker dissecting On the Road trying to re-capture a feeling that wasn’t yours to begin with.
There is a general tendency to associate art inspired by drugs with ‘Outsiders’, people who live on the fringes of society and have ‘elevated understandings’ of our world. The Beat writers define this culture. Kerouac, Ginsburg and Burroughs all famously tried everything and anything they could get their hands on, attain some form of enlightenment. I don’t know how close they got, but they wrote some great stuff along the way. Then again by the end of Ginsberg’s life he was clean (almost) and writing just as beautifully.
My qualm with drugs and art isn’t in the drug taking. It’s in the drug taking for the purposes of creating something because you think it’s a guaranteed production method. That at the end of the trip you’re going to be left with a masterpiece that lasts for ages, when usually you’re left with a numb face, dry mouth and an overwhelming sense of disillusionment. Sorry to disappoint, but maybe you’ll be luckier next time.