Writing, Smoking, Self-Loathing, and Digital Pollution

Barry Fralick
3 min readJan 20

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Photo by Jeff Brown on Unsplash

I don’t have a formal education in the business of letters and I barely passed my English final in my senior year of high school so I am not sure why you are reading this piece other than the remote possibility that I have crafted a catchy enough title to lure you in or you are extremely bored.

I didn’t write a single meaningful sentence in the twenty years following high school and I don’t consider myself a very good writer. But here I am.

I have been tapping out words on the reg now for 3–4 years and I like to think I have some semblance of potential. Sometimes I surprise myself when writing and other times I wish I could take my laptop and crumple it up like a piece of paper and throw it at the trash bin like writers used to do in the movies long ago.

The thing about writing is, it’s never done. Once the writing is complete, there is nothing to do but write more. Every moment of your day is consumed by thoughts of writing. It is an addiction.

Every time I’m not writing because I am feeling stuck, [I refuse to use the term writer’s block here.] I am quickly reminded of the last time I quit smoking. Two months of misery thinking about cigarettes at every waking moment. Hell, I even dreamt about cigarettes. Who knew sleep is no escape from addiction?

And when you’re not writing there is self-loathing. Self-loathing until that moment arrives when you hit your next flow state like taking that first puff after a long hiatus from cancer-seeking behavior. It is pure dopamine-infused joy.

The only time a writer isn’t thinking about writing is when they are writing or fucking which makes it exactly like smoking.

Excuse me while I correct myself. I have never once thought about lighting a smoke while wrecking sheets but my mind has wandered into the realm of making words on several occasions which completely dissolves my last sentence of validity.

Smoking however calms the mind. Writing forever haunts it. Where the sensation of smoke filling your lungs quells the craving for a cigarette, hitting publish rarely has the same effect. You’re already thinking about your next piece of writing not long after the final click has been made. And so it continues.

If writing is going well the world is a fucking magical place. I feel stronger, smarter, and more attractive. Women want me. Men know they’ll never be me. The angels sing on my shoulder. The demons retreat into darkness. I am master of my domain.

But if it’s not going well, the world crumbles. Procrastination-fueled rage cleaning leads the way. The demons lurk. The angels turn ugly. I am a hideous person. I must be stupid. Maybe I should quit. Perhaps I don’t have what it takes. I am worthless.

Maybe I am comparing myself to others who appear to write so easily while I struggle more often than not. Or perhaps that’s not the case. Perhaps we are all fighting demons. Perhaps we’re all struggling for our next hit of dopamine haunted by words and the lack thereof.

Dear reader, I’m not sure why I wrote this piece other than to clear the fog from the valley that is my brain, and in a way, it feels like I wrote this piece more for me than for you which makes me a selfish person.

I’m afraid I don’t have any little nuggets of wisdom for you to take away from this cloud of digital pollution but I do have this: Writing is hard. And if you find it difficult, you are not alone. And if it drives you insane, you are not alone. But in a way, that is the point. Like an illicit love affair, it is messy, it is dirty, it is beautiful, it makes you crazy, and it is worth it.

— Barry

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