Many writers are known to be alcoholics, others drug addicts. So it only makes sense that quite a few are also potheads. But, there are tons of no-name writers who wrote their books while high.
There are also tons of writers who sat at their keyboards with a joint in hand, wafting in cannabis fumes, only to churn out a book in their high stupor that is... less than stellar. A disorganized, unfocused mess.
So forget those guys. Let's talk about good books – great books, even – that were written while high. There are no doubt far more writers who consumed cannabis in some variety while writing, and many of the writers we're about to mention did more than just cannabis.
So I am not endorsing their lifestyles, just like I wouldn't be endorsing Ernest Hemingway's drinking habits in an article about drunk writers. Still, there are plenty of great books written while the authors were high as kites, and, by understanding which books were written while high, you as a reader can gain a further appreciation of these great books.
For much of the 80s, horror best-seller Stephen King wasn't just cranking out some of the greatest horror stories ever. He was also snorting coke, chugging down six packs, and smoking some marijuana. Stephen King has been very open about his drug dependencies and alcoholism, even incorporating it into his writing from time to time. (He even directed a movie while high.)
Of all these books he wrote during this period, Cujo remains the most fascinating, as King was so high and drunk throughout the whole writing process that he has literally no memory of writing any of it. While Cujo is far from his most fondly remembered book, it is certainly a terrific book when you stop and consider that King was totally blazed out of his mind while producing it.
Hunter S. Thompson is perhaps one of the most bewildering human beings of the 20th Century. Constantly in search of a story, always on the brink of some drug induced hallucination, Thompson remains one of the most peculiar figures in the history of writing.
His most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was the product of countless doses of LSD, countless drinks, and, yes, quite a few joints. Thompson was completely high writing this book, which makes sense. It would be disappointing if you heard that Hunter S. Thompson didn't write his most famous book while high.
The Three Musketeers is often remembered as one of the quintessential adventure stories, where a band of heroes gang together to fight some bad guys. "All for one, and one for all!" and all that camaraderie. And while Alexandre Dumas wrote many other books (The Man in the Iron Mask another famous work of his), it is important to remember one thing.
He loved marijuana.
Or, more specifically, hashish, a variety of cannabis. He often praised the drug in his writing. At the time, hashish was embraced by a number of popular writers, as it was believed to expand one's literary and creative brain. Alexandre Dumas was a member of Club des Hashishchins, which included other literary legends, such as...
Victor Hugo is one of the greatest writers of the 19th Century. He only wrote four novels, two of which (Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) are commonly regarded as among the greatest pieces of writing ever.
And he was a total pothead.
Between saving prostitutes and making public declarations on behalf of the poor, he also was a member of the Club des Hashishchins, which believed, as mentioned prior, that smoking weed would expand the literary minds of writers. So he smoked it especially when writer's block hit while producing his massive magnum opus, Les Miserables.
Carl Sagan, to a generation, was the picture of scientific pioneering. He ran the wonderful show Cosmos throughout the 80s, spoke at colleges and schools...
And loved marijuana.
From the 60s onward, Sagan smoked marijuana. He got high quite frequently, regarding it as a small rebellion in the face of the establishment. He wrote many essays speaking out against marijuana's status as an illegal drug, in particular during the 80s.
And, yes, when Sagan wrote his masterpiece, Contact, he was getting high.
As one of the Beat Generation's signature writers, Jack Kerouac did a ton of pot. Marijuana was a core element of the beatniks, and, thus, he did it all. Of all his books, the most famous is his novel On the Road, which he drew from his own experience as a aimless youth, smoking pot and drinking tons of booze.
Sadly, Kerouac's extreme lifestyle led to his early death, but that doesn't change the fact that all his works are still in print, a tribute to a movement that believed in rejecting society through small, little rebellions.
Philip K. Dick, regarded by some as one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time, had a lot of problems. He suffered from nightmarish hallucinations and delusions on a near-constant basis, believing that people were spying on him, that there were entities pursuing him around every corner, and only in moments of sobriety would realize that his mind and worldview had started crumbling apart.
While Dick tried to stop using drugs in the mid-70s after his body literally started breaking down from his drug dependency, he wrote his landmark novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, around the time he first learned about marijuana. The novel is a bleak dystopian affair occupied by an overwhelming, oppressive atmosphere.
If Philip K. Dick was getting high while writing this book, it sure didn't help him lighten up.
Howl is often regarded as one of the most important entries in the Beat Movement. This work of poetry proved revolutionary in literary spheres all over. Allen Ginsberg, the writer of this work of art and main figurehead of the Beat movement, was almost in an almost constant high due to all the pot he smoked.
Of course, in some respects, this was part of Allen's poetry. Howl is, in many respects, a bad trip. It explores topics of the marijuana smoking culture at that time, as well as anti-establishment themes. For a more in-depth analysis on Howl in correlation with the beatnik movement and marijuana culture, look here.
It is debatable how much pot William S. Burroughs smoked while writing Naked Lunch, but what is undeniable is that a lot of marijuana helped lead to its creation.
Let me explain. You ever watch a movie where someone has an apple on their heads, and another character shoots either a bullet or an arrow through it? And, by all accounts, one twitch of the hand can kill the person who has an apple on their head, but, miraculously, it doesn't? Well, you'd have to be drunk or high to try that in real life.
Burroughs and his wife did try that. And yes, they were high and drunk. And it didn't work out.
This event helped motivate Burroughs to write Naked Lunch, which he created by cutting up other articles from various sources, and pasting them together to create a truly surreal work of art that is sometimes regarded as science fiction. The story is more a stream of paranoid thoughts that coalesces into a story – maybe. It's truly beyond explanation. It is an experience that must be partaken.
Lee Child, best-selling writer of the Jack Reacher series, smokes pot. Lots of it. He's gone on record multiple times to say that he's been smoking it frequently for years. He finds it an ideal way to unwind after a long day.
This means that Lee Child created one of the most popular, best-selling book series, starting with his novel Killing Floor, while getting high. Some of Child's audience found this somewhat shocking, as the novels seem too mainstream and orderly to have come from the mind of someone high. Pot smokers write weird stories, like Stephen King or Philip K Dick, or overly literary ones like the beatniks.
But the simple truth is that marijuana, like any other mind-altering substance (even coffee) does not write the book. The writer does. It is the writer who produces a work. Marijuana does not have a writing style because marijuana does not write.
Unless you are Hunter S. Thompson. His body is marijuana.