It started Friday night and by Saturday, I had a full-blown fever. Not yet of the achy, miserable, death-dealing variety, but a good fever. Maybe that sounds weird, but there are good fevers. The ones that detach you from your usual thought-processes, letting you wander freely through your subconscious and unconscious mind, leaving a trail of powdered donut crumbs upon which a million little mental ants will swarm and feed. Delightful.
There’s something sensuous about fever as well. The heat in all your limbs, the heaviness in your eyes, the way every sensation is magnified until even the seams on your clothes chafe and irritate. If your partner isn’t afraid of cooties, fever sex is magnificent. Intense but blunted, confounding and goalless. No wonder there was such a cloud of romance around tuberculosis in the 18th and 19th centuries. The bitterness of encroaching death sweetened by fever-pleasure and hallucination. Some of the best fevers of my life were in college in the weeks before I was diagnosed with TB. Luscious, trippy evening fevers that dissipated by morning. Like a wine buzz, but without a hangover. Too bad it turned out I had TB. I could have gone on forever enjoying those fevers and the fruits of those fevers.
Because that’s the writerly element of my fever-pleasure: the things I think of to write while I’m in the throes of a fever. Perhaps it’ll be weeks before they come to fruition, but the seeds are planted around 100-101 degrees. It makes me wonder about all the artificial means writers employ to expand their creative visions, to access their subconscious, to free them from inhibitions.
Many people write while drinking wine or other alcohol. I find it dulls me as much as marijuana. Makes everything seem funny or clever or brilliant, until sober daylight falls on it. It works for some writers, though. A little too well, perhaps. Joyce, Cheever, Chandler, Hemingway, they were all alcoholics. Tennessee Williams, he was just a lush.
Poe went full bore, a user and abuser of alcohol, absinthe, and cocaine. Same for Hunter S. Thompson, although his extensive pharmacological experimentation makes Poe look like a mere dabbler. If alcohol won’t deliver, there’s acid and peyote. (If you don’t mind the “who crapped in my mouth?” feeling afterward.)
As a grown up, I’ve sworn off drugs, but there’s always that other fallback from my college days: sleep deprivation. Such lovely strange visions it provided. Go without sleep long enough and you’ll meet parts of your personality you never knew existed. Or at any rate, your friends will meet them. You’ll have a vague memory of it, like an old movie on late night television that you half-slept through. Later, you can’t remember which parts were really the movie and which parts were your dream.
For example, in grad school I once had a deeply involved conversation with a bag of Legos at a thrift store. It was the product of nearly four days of sleeplessness, powered by coffee and truckstop love. Sadly, my boyfriend at the time did not value the hallucinogenic effects of my lack of sleep and intervened.
Then there’s the simple fact that sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous as many drugs. All in all, I’ll take a nice fever to fuel my imagination. What about you? What’s your preferred creative “drug”?