You may have read stories about famous writers, how they worked, and, in some cases, the drugs they used. There are the stories about Hemingway who had a rollicking affair with alcohol, the hard stuff, and still wrote volumes, extremely good ones, too. Then there’s Poe who took opium, not illegal in his day, but his use was not medicinal but look at the works he produced. I could go on and write about stoking the imagination but my herb of choice does not veer in that direction. It is not made from hops or rye or tobacco or marijuana, although I do like fermented grapes. My needs are more quotidian and fall along the lines of John Irving, one of my favorite authors for the twists and turns and sheer trouble with which he plagues his main characters.
Mr. Irving handwrites the first draft of his novels. He’s written fourteen of them; one close to eight hundred pages long. He says he engages the services of a massage therapist who works on his hands so he can keep writing. Now that is an important bit of news. Whether he has arthritis, or has plain worn out his fingers, he’s taking the matter seriously. He didn’t say whether he took any drugs for inflammation or joint pain, but here is my perspective on this.
After six months of writing for several hours every day, my wrists and shoulders began to cramp. My trapezius tightened up, then my back, and my fingers tingled. I bought a new desk chair and set reminders to sit properly. I worked out with hand weights and added a yoga class each week.
Even though I’ve been a yoga practitioner for years, I don’t often eat Indian food. If I had, I would’ve known the benefits of turmeric, a culinary herb that also has anti-inflammatory properties. Fortunately, a very knowledgeable Indian man operates my yoga studio and when I mentioned my problem, he suggested I ease off my practice for a few days and try turmeric.
I practice Iyengar yoga and that means when one of my joints is tender, or limited in range, or just plain tired, I provide support and let it rest. To that I added turmeric, one capsule a day, and got relief within a week. Now it’s part of my routine: work toward a good, seated posture while writing and take turmeric. Now I (mostly) write without discomfort. No distracting pain. This herb, known more widely as a culinary herb, is my drug of choice and keeps my writing smooth. No mind altering required.