Cannabis and creativity go hand in hand, but why? While many books exist on the pharmacology and business behind the plant, few delve into the connection between creative output and cannabis.
Jordana Wright’s Cannabis for Creatives is the perfect source material for anyone looking to incorporate cannabis into their artistic process. The American photographer, writer and cannabis activist interviewed 32 people in creative industries spanning various disciplines and asked them how and why cannabis is beneficial to them and their craft.
Comprising of six chapters, the book begins with a preface from the author, detailing what creativity means to her: How pressurised environments like school and corporate work kill the natural desire to create that we are born with, and how cannabis reawakened some of that free-flowing activity for Wright, removing the pressure of an ‘end goal’, or creating for the sake of achievement. Instead, she celebrates the liberation one can experience when incorporating cannabis into a creative process, and encourages us as readers to carve our own path – the book itself acting as the perfect place to start: “If cannabis can help you rekindle that spark of imagination to explore and enjoy the inner workings of your mind and the world around you, then it might just be the most precious creative source you will ever find.”
The book is unique in its approach; the first half focuses on the science behind creativity and cannabis, while the second part features long-form interviews with various cannabis-using creatives. There are interviews with writers, chefs, cartoonists, musicians and more, who discuss their personal experiences with cannabis as a creative tool. Some of the work is featured in the book, including song lyrics, a poem, and visual art (all on the subject of weed, of course!)
The first part of the book lays out all the facts in a clear, digestible manner. If someone had gone their whole life without knowing what cannabis was, this book would provide them with all the information necessary. There is even a glossary, providing definitions for weed-related terms – both scientific and slang words, such as blunt, edible, cannabinoids, sploof etc.
Chapter One provides a historical timeline of cannabis use; from the first record of its use in China at the Pan-p’o village dating back to 4,000 BCE, to its prominence within Black jazz circles in 1920s New Orleans. Musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were well-known for their love of cannabis, and the relationship between the plant and jazz is an important one, as racism ultimately led to its criminalisation.
Chapters Three and Four, ‘Cannabis and the brain’ and ‘Understanding the plant’ are the most science heavy, but the information is broken down into layman’s terms, making it easy to understand. No stone is left unturned, explaining to readers the psychoactive properties of weed, the various chemical compounds (THC, CBD, CBN, CBG and more) and it even explains how getting high works and the various ways it can be done.
The book never makes sweeping generalisations; Wright understands the importance of personal preference when it comes to cannabis, especially when using it as a creative tool. This book is not encouraging people to aimlessly get baked and expect a masterpiece to appear in front of them. Instead, it’s providing readers with a jump-off point to kickstart their own creative journey. The interviews in the second part explore this, with each artist explaining their process. In her interview, writer and translator Daniela Valdez says she appreciates being high as it “allows her to write with more confidence and truth. Smoking silences that inner critic that represents the biggest barrier to her creativity.” Whereas the interview with sculpture artist Michael Marras details how, for him, he is more selective about when to incorporate weed into his workday:
“Cannabis is more appropriate for some applications than others. When he’s writing stories for the characters he creates, pot makes it harder to focus. […] But when it comes to imagining storylines, characters, and worlds, smoking helps him access his creative muse.”
These varying personal insights do well to demonstrate the nuance of cannabis use, and the importance of tailoring the experience to best suit your creative needs.
It is the final chapter, ‘Exploring your own creativity with cannabis’, that is the most engaging and beneficial for readers wanting to incorporate cannabis into their own creative process. There are helpful prompts that provide a start off point, with tips on how best to cater to your own specific needs. Wright encourages readers to explore their own past cannabis experiences and to track them, in order to find that sweet spot that allows for creativity.
Though it is evident that this book will appeal to creatives that already dabble in cannabis use, it has the potential to persuade non-users to see it in a new light. Alternatively, it may also inspire cannabis users who haven’t exercised their creative muscles in a while to do so. Perhaps using their next smoke session as a chance to paint, sew, or journal – the creative opportunities are endless!
Overall, this book is a great addition to the ever-expanding research on cannabis and does an excellent job of reducing some of the stigmas around its use. Let’s hope it opens the door for more of its kind, perhaps one that looks at creatives outside of the States.
Cannabis for Creatives is available to buy online in the UK via Amazon.