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Pickles and Ice Cream

February 9, 2010

No, this is not a pregnancy blog. I couldn’t think of another stereotypical bad combination, so there you have  it.

I think a lot of people have a certain mental image concerning the appearance of a writer. He or she is disheveled, pasty, with flyaway hair and a fondness for sweater vests. Sleeves stained in ink, glasses askew, hunched over a desk cluttered with papers and overflowing ashtrays.

I don’t wear glasses, but now there’s a new way that I don’t fit the stereotype.

See, I lied the other day when I wrote that I can smoke as many cigarettes as I want. Actually, I’m trying to quit. It’s not going too badly thus far; I am down to about half a pack a day when I used to smoke more like a pack and a half daily. I’ve been smoking since I was sixteen and now feels like a good time to stop.

Writing and quitting smoking do not go together very well. When I spend my day doing something other than typing away, I find it easy to ignore that pack calling my name from across the room. I can slack off and watch TV for hours without craving a butt (a cigarette butt, that is). But somehow, when I sit down to write, it feels so much more natural to have a cigarette wedged between my left forefinger and middle finger.

On a physiological level, everyone’s brain moves faster when stimulated by nicotine. Non-smokers actually get more benefit from having a cigarette than smokers do, because us smokers are used to higher levels of nicotine in our brains. But even heavy smokers do “think better” when they can smoke. We might not notice the difference when we’re all pumped full of nicotine; it just feels normal. But take away the cigarettes and we lose focus and start falling asleep at our desks.

On a psychological level, I’ve created many “smoking patterns” in my time. Coffee goes with cigarettes; those two things will always be inextricably linked in my mind. The same thing is true of writing and cigarettes: they go together, like a twinset. Somehow over the years of working on novel-in-progress at four in the morning, chain-smoking away, I came to associate smoking with being creative, productive, and yes, I hate to admit this last one, happy. I’m an addict. It’s sad. And that’s why I’m trying to quit…

Unfortunately, for me, at least, staying focused and motivated and being clever with words does not pair well with quitting. It’s like the aforementioned pickles and ice cream, or Caesar dressing on an eclair.

That sounds really disgusting, actually. Clearly that should have been the title.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2010 5:13 pm

    It’s possible. After a bit, your mind pics up and starts to work at pre-quitting levels. You are fighting one major stumbling block though, you smoke where you work. If you clear out all of the ashtrays, work on cleaning out the smell and then force yourself to get up and go outside it will help. After that, I recommend finding a replacement, a physical activity that you can do instead of smoking (training a martial art, learning parkour, throwing a ball at a wall). Whatever it is, it needs to be both physical and hard. You also need to accept right now that you will gain weight for about a year minimum (at least I did).

    I’m a little more than three years without a smoke. I feel healthier, and I rarely miss them. I also know that if I have one cigarette I will be right back on the nicotine. Also, I kind of miss the whole image of myself as the erudite intellectual, cigarette dangling carelessly from my mouth as I spout out witticisms.

    • February 10, 2010 7:00 pm

      Oh, I’ll get there. One foggy addled day at a time. The thing is that I manage not to smoke too many cigarettes, but I find that the cravings greatly increase while I’m working. As if I weren’t already twitchy and distracted enough, y’know…
      Thanks for your support. It’s good to know it can be done.

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