Daily Archives: March 3, 2010

Hallucinations, Writing and Literacy

Okay, I officially understand why drug addicts like to get high.  Yesterday culminated in a whopper of a sinus infection.  I used to get them often and was thrilled to be infection free for about seven years.  Unfortunately, sinus infections are like accidently slurping down a cupful of sour milk.  Once you’ve experienced it, you will never forget.

My teeth were ready to fall out, my head throbbed and my cheekbone ached.  Enter a nice pharmacist who gave me the strongest over the counter meds to help ease the symptoms.  Wow, were they strong!

I think I hallucinated in my dreams.  They (take your pick, the dreams or the hallucinations within the dreams) were vibrant, imaginative and filled with nuances that piled up like blankets on a cold winter night.  Amazing. 

Writing is a bit like that.  We come to the paper with unique ideas and layer them with plots, subplots, characters, setting and voice.  In the rough draft stage creativity flows and it’s a little like hallucinating.  Some things make sense, while others seem to pop out of nowhere for the sole purpose of being pretty distractions.

However, hallucinations aren’t the only side effects of taking meds.  My stomach hurts, I’m exhausted and I feel shaky, as if there is a disconnect between my brain and my fingers.  Reality seems just outside my grasp.  Even within my mind, it is hard to focus on any one thing.  I start thinking about dogs and find myself considering the merits of recycling only seconds later.  My world exists in bits and pieces. 

In my writing and in my life, I welcome the return to reality–a place where my head doesn’t ache, my ears don’t ring and hallucinations don’t haunt me.  I would hate to live in a world where I felt high all the time, and I firmly believe people would be less apt to use illicit chemicals if they knew the magic that books held.  After all, drugs are often used to escape one’s reality.

In books, fanciful worlds emerge between the covers.  Colorful characters and sinister settings pull us throught the pages on adventures never before dreamed of.  Intricate plots weave together to make spell-binding stories come to life.  For just a few moments, hours or days, we can slip into an alternate reality with no side effects.

Studies have proven a direct link between literacy levels, criminal activity and poverty.  Drugs are a common component in the lives of illiterate individuals.  These problems compound, perpetuating the cycle between poor literacy and poor living environments.  True escape becomes increasingly more difficult as these life patterns become more ingrained.

Have you considered your part, as a writer, in perpetuating literacy?  Have you participated in, or made plans to participate in, literacy campaigns or programs? 

What can you do on a personal level to create future readers?  Or, is it even our responsibilty to do so?