writing a paper while high

Actual and Definitive Proof That Smoking Weed Makes You a Great Writer

As we all know, the effects of pot are varied, vast and contradictory. It mellows you out, it induces paranoia, it gives you a buzz, lowers inhibitions and transmits that warm and fuzzy feeling its fans know all too well.

But for those pursuing creative endeavors, pot can offer you an extra-special gift: It could help spark abstract thinking, and its effects might help you connect seemingly unrelated ideas. So writers, you’re in luck, as your craft thrives off such processes.

We’re not saying that smoking pot will necessarily make you a better writer, or that those words you scribble while stoned are definitely brilliant, but we’re saying that a little puff here or there might help you realize your potential. And these famous wordsmiths are some compelling proof:

Carl Sagan

Sagan was an established scientist and author who penned hundreds of scientific papers and books, includingВ The Dragons of EdenBroca’s BrainВ andВ Pale Blue Dot. But the best of his creativity can be seen inВ Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which he cowrote withВ Ann Druyan and Steven Soter, along with narrating the show. Plenty of present-day stoners love theВ CosmosВ reboot,В enough to warrant a parody video.

Sagan’s thoughts on pot:В Not only did Sagan casually smoke marijuana, but he was also an advocate for legalization. HeВ wrote an essayВ about his experiences on the drug under the alias “Mr. X,” published in the 1971 bookВ Marijuana Reconsidered. He had high praise for weed’s effect on his appreciation for art and heightened pleasure during sex.

Zadie Smith

She might only have five novels under her belt, but Smith continues to receive accolades from critics. The young writer has found literary acclaim before the age of 40, especially with her debutВ White Teeth.В

Smith’s thoughts on pot: She jokes about it, saying that there’s nothing wrong with a little liking for Mary Jane. Smith isn’t a big smoker herself, but recognizes the good vibes it brings people. В

Stephen KingВ

A master of the horror genre, King has published 55 novels and received various awards. He’s behind The Shawshank Redemption, Children of the Corn, The Shining, ItВ and Carrie, along with more than a few adaptations. His work typically steers clear from gore and instead depends on plot twists to really build up suspense. Pro-tip: Smokers who get paranoid probably want to avoid watching a King movie while high.В

King’s thoughts on pot: King used to be a pretty heavy cannabis consumer, and in a 1980s interview with High Times, he gave his take on the drug: “I think that marijuana should not only be legal, I think it should be a cottage industry.”В

Susan Sontag

Sontag published both nonfiction and fictionВ while using her medium to advocate for human rights, AIDS awareness and more. While her nonfiction essays on art first brought her attention, Sontag’s fiction pushed the boundaries of the craft, such as her experimental short story The Way We Live Now.

Sontag’s thoughts on pot: Sontag is credited withВ saying, “I think marijuana is much better than liquor. I think a society which is addicted to a very destructive and unhealthy drug — namely alcohol — certainly has no right to complain or be sanctimonious or censor the use of a drug which is much less harmful.”В

Hunter S. ThompsonВ

The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas didn’t even have to finish high school to become a successful writer. After his stint in the Air Force, he spent a year traveling with the Angels for his bookВ Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. Surely he huffed more than just a couple of times while roaming the countryside.В

Thompson’s thoughts on pot:В Outspoken and fearless, Thompson was upfront about his usage, even proclaiming his love for the drug. His basic staples for life included beer, ice, grapefruit and the ganja. Weed must have helped him hone his creative ideas.

Maya Angelou

AngelouВ helped pave the way for other minorities in literature. I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsВ is a necessary read for anyone, as are all her other works, given her talents for books, essays, poetry, plays and more. Angelou recited “In and Out of Time” inВ Tyler Perry’s 2006 Madea’s Family Reunion, and her appearance in the comedy pretty much felt like a hallucination.В

Angelou’s thoughts on pot:В We don’t have major evidence that Angelou smoked it up regularly in her later years, but it’s reported that she “smoked with abandon” in her younger days.В

William Shakespeare

You know, just theВ Shakespeare who’s responsible for some of the greatest literature ever, like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth. He also casually created more than 2,200 words in his works, many of which have joined our everyday language. Shakespeare must have been on something when he decided that he was going to expand the lexicon to his liking.В

Shakespeare’s thoughts on pot: Nobody ever got to sit down Shakespeare and ask, “So, do you like weed?” But clues in history help support the claim that he did partake in some dope festivities. Between his sonnets that reference a “noted weed” and 17th century pipes with traces of cannabis being uncovered at his former home, it’s pretty clear the guy was a stoner.В

Alexandre DumasВ

Dumas is the French author who wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte CristoВ andВ whose tales have been translated into almost 100 other languages. His work teems with adventure.

Dumas’ thoughts on pot: Dumas was a member of a society dedicated to weed,В Club des Hachichins. They loved experimenting, especially with hashish. Other high-profile Parisian writers who were part of the group included ThГ©ophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire. The club meetings must have been the 19th century version of the basement scenes inВ That ’70s Show

Jennifer Egan

The Brooklyn-based writer has had fiction published in the pages of the New Yorker and Harper’s. In 2011, she won both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for A Visit from the Goon Squad. The novel is unconventional in format, with an entire chapter being told through a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.В

Egan’s thoughts on pot: Egan is very upfront with the roles of drugs and Patti Smith in her youth. In a piece for the Guardian, she talks about climbing onto a rooftop and smoking her first joint. She didn’t stop at pot — acid and mushrooms followed soon after. Well, she did grow up in San Francisco, so totally expected.В


The Father of History, as Cicero dubbed him, was a Greek historian who shaped the historiographic narrative by taking a critical eye to how he collected his sources and info. Daddy of the Past is responsible for Histories, the founding work of history in Western literature. For someone so vital in recording history, apparently some his stories were also debunked as made up. Wonder if it was the weed talking.

Herodotus’ thoughtsВ on pot: Herodotus knew what was up. He was the first to reference pot in the Western world, and wrote about Scythians burning some hemp to create a vapor that would get them transported and howling (see: faded). Father of Time must have partaken in the recreational activity, for research in the name of historical accuracy, of course.В

Having writer’s block? Smoke a joint. These writers are proof enough that weed will help you achieve creativity nirvana.В

As we all know, the effects of pot are varied, vast and contradictory. It mellows you out, it induces paranoia, it gives you a buzz, lowers inhibitions and transmits that warm and fuzzy feeling its fans know all too well. But for those pursuing…

How to Write High-Quality Papers and Essays More Quickly

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I’m not gonna lie: writing papers can suck. Even as someone who basically writes papers for a living these days (like this article), I still viewed every college paper with a tinge of dread.

After all, writing a paper isn’t like working math problems or reading a chapter of a book. As frustrating as those activities can be, they always seemed more finite than the monumental task of “writing a paper.” You can’t just open the book and start working: you have to brainstorm, research, outline, draft, edit, and add those pesky citations.

As I moved through college, however, I developed a system for cranking out papers in record time. This let me spend more time on things that I enjoyed, such as writing for this blog and taking long walks through the woods. Today, I’m going to share this process so that you too can write papers more quickly (without a decrease in the quality of your writing).

Sound impossible? Read on to see how it works.

1. Understand the Assignment

The ultimate waste of time when writing a paper is to write something that doesn’t even answer the question the professor is asking. Don’t be afraid to ask the professor to explain any part of the assignment that’s unclear.

If the assignment seems vague, it’s not because the professor is trying to trip you up. Often, it’s that they know their field so well that it’s easy for them to think some things are “obvious”…even when they aren’t to us non-experts.

Remember: asking for clarification because you don’t understand the assignment doesn’t make you stupid; what’s stupid is to complete the assignment without understanding it.

Yet, when I was an English TA in college, I saw this problem all the time. Students would spend hours researching and writing a paper on a completely different topic than what the professor assigned. It doesn’t matter how good a paper is–if it doesn’t answer the question, it’s going to receive a bad grade.

Best case scenario, the professor is nice and lets you rewrite it, but why do all that extra work? Furthermore, asking the professor for clarification shows initiative–that you care about the assignment. Demonstrating this level of engagement with your assignments can only boost your grade.

2. Research with Ruthless Efficiency

Once you understand the assignment, you need to start researching. But beware! If you’re not careful, research can be one of the best ways to procrastinate. “One more source” can easily turn into hours that you could have been writing.

To overcome the temptation to procrastinate on research, I employ my favorite approach for beating all forms of procrastination: setting a time limit. As I explained in my guide to research, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per page of the final paper researching. That is, if the paper is supposed to be 5 pages, don’t spend more than 2.5 hours on research (maximum).

Spending any more time than this puts you at a point of diminishing returns. Don’t worry about not having enough information. If you find that you need more info after you start writing, you can always do more research. The goal of your initial research session is to give you just enough material to start writing. Get into the library or database, find your sources, take your notes, and then get to writing.

3. Create a Flat Outline

“It’s impossible to figure out every detail of your argument before you sit down, look at your sources, and actually try to write. Most students abandon their hierarchical outline soon after their fingers hit the keyboard.”

– Cal Newport, “How to Use a Flat Outline to Write Outstanding Papers, Fast”

Ever since I learned the traditional method of outlining papers in 8th grade, I felt the system was broken. I never created an outline with bullets and numbers and letters before writing the paper. I always just made one up afterwards because I was required to turn one in with the final paper.

Starting in college, I developed my own outlining technique that was much more effective. As it turns out, my technique wasn’t so original after all. As Cal Newport explains, it’s called a flat outline. In Cal’s words, the flat outline works as follows:

  1. Don’t build a hierarchical outline. Instead, list the topics you want to tackle in the order you want to tackle.
  2. Revisit the library to find sources for the topics that still need support.
  3. Dump all relevant quotes from your sources under the topics.
  4. Transform your topic-level outline into your paper. Don’t start from a blank screen.

Isn’t this so much better? The flat outline works because it mirrors the writing process. No one sits down to write with a perfect idea of what they’re going to say. You discover what you’re going to say through the process of writing. The flat outline gives you just enough structure to overcome the dreaded “blank canvas” while still leaving room for discovery.

4. Create the Perfect Writing Environment

Okay, so you have a rock solid understanding of the topic, you’ve done your research, and your flat outline is ready. Now, you need to sit down and write the sucker. But not so fast: where you write makes a difference.

Because after procrastination, the greatest obstacle to writing a paper quickly is distraction. If you don’t have an environment where you can focus, you’ll waste hours jumping back and forth between the paper and whatever distractions come your way.

To make sure you have the focus of a zen master, you must create a writing environment that enables zen-like focus. For a full guide to creating a distraction-free study space, check out our article on the topic. In the meantime, here’s a summary of the best practices:

  • Go to a studious place. This could be a quiet part of the library, an off-campus coffee shop, or even your dorm room. Wherever you know that people won’t distract or interrupt you, that’s the place you must go.
  • Make it comfortable. You won’t be able to focus on writing if your chair feels like a bed of nails or the table wobbles. Take care of your base physical comfort before writing anything else. Caveat: don’t write while in bed. Your bed is only for sleeping and…you know, that other s-word.
  • Block digital distractions. Depending on how bad your internet/phone addiction is, this could be as simple as closing unrelated programs and putting your phone in airplane mode or as drastic as installing an app such as Cold Turkey Writer that blocks everything on your computer until you write a certain number of words. If you need the internet to write (maybe you’re writing in Google Docs, for example), then you can install an app such as Freedom or SelfControl to block distracting sites.
  • Assemble your supplies. Sitting down to write and realizing you left one of your sources back in your dorm is a definite productivity killer. Be sure you have your computer charged, sources assembled, and coffee/tea at the ready before your write a word.
  • Put on your pump up playlist. If you don’t find it distracting, then I recommend using music that will get you in the zone to write. I have a few albums on rotation that get me into a mode of writing flow. For example, when writing this article I put on Muse’s The 2nd Law. You better believe I felt ready to conquer the world with that in the background. If you’re looking for a killer pre-made collection of study music, have a look at Thomas’s Ultimate Study Music Playlist.

5. Follow a Standard Structure

Each paper you write should not feel like reinventing the wheel. Your goal when writing a paper for a college class is to fulfill the assignment requirements in a way that goes just above and beyond enough to impress the professor. You’re not trying to break new ground in your discipline or redefine the way we use the English language (if you are, then you don’t need to read this article).

The way to make sure that you don’t get caught up in the structure is just to pick a standard structure for your discipline and follow it. Save the originality for your arguments. So how do you find these elusive standards? Ask your professor. They can point you to some relevant guides or examples.

Also, pay attention to the readings your professor assigns for the class. This should give you some idea of the academic conventions you should follow in your papers. It’s easy to go through an article and focus so much on the information that you ignore the structure (which is a good thing–the structure shouldn’t distract you). But if you spend a couple reading sessions paying attention to structure, you’ll get a feel for how it should go.

If that seems too advanced or too much work, then another option is to Google “SUBJECT NAME paper template”. Just be careful about the source–a template from a university is fine; one on some random student’s Blogger page, not so much.

6. Focus On Quality Over Quantity

If the paper is supposed to have a final page count of 5-7, you may be tempted to write a paper that’s 7 or even 8 pages. After all, more is better, right?

Wrong. Every professor I had in college told me that they would always prefer a good 5-page paper over an okay 7-page paper. Frankly, some topics don’t need 7 pages–5 is plenty. If you try to stretch it out, you may end up diluting your argument.

If you’re not convinced, consider this: I rarely wrote more than the minimum page count, and I consistently received A’s on papers in English, History, Religious Studies, and Education classes.

Knowing this, why would you ever write more than you need to? It’s not just a waste of time or effort; it may even be counterproductive.

Of course, your paper has to be good for this to work. For advice on improving the quality of your papers, check out my post on 6 Writing Tips to Make Your Papers 300% Better.

7. Draft and Edit Separately

Editing and drafting at the same time is, like all forms of multitasking, inefficient and ultimately impossible. Don’t do it. Write with your full attention and effort, and then edit.

Similarly, never stop to look stuff up when you are writing. If you don’t know something, just make a note of it and come back to it later. At best, looking something up takes you away from writing, but even more likely it will pull you into an internet rabbit hole that will really derail the entire writing process.

The goal of writing this way is to keep you in the flow state as long as possible. Because if you can just get to a place of flow, your momentum will be unstoppable.

8. Write the Conclusion and Introduction Last

One of the greatest barriers to starting a paper is coming up with an introduction. If you think about it, this difficulty makes sense: how are you supposed to introduce something you haven’t even created?

This is why you shouldn’t write the introduction until you’ve finished the main body of the paper. I know it seems like a counterintuitive approach, but I challenge you to try it. This method avoids what has happened to me more times than I can count: writing the paper and then realizing that my intro doesn’t even fit with the final paper.

The same goes for the conclusion. Write it last. After all, how can you conclude when you haven’t even finished writing? If you want more advice on the specifics of writing solid conclusions, check out my post on how to write a paper.

9. Don’t Edit Alone

When you’re writing the draft, you need privacy and focus. But when you’re editing, having someone else to look over your work can speed things up. Why? Because you’re inherently blind to the mistakes in your writing. You’ve been looking at the draft so long that mistakes won’t jump out at you the way they will to a fresh set of eyes.

When it comes to finding someone to help you edit, you have a few options:

  1. Get a trusted friend to read the paper. Just make sure they don’t end up distracting you.
  2. Take the paper to your college’s writing center. Don’t expect them to be your copy editor, however. More than likely, the writing center staff will have you read the paper aloud to them. This lets you catch the errors yourself while still having the accountability of another person in the room.
  3. Ask your professor for feedback. This won’t always be possible, but sometimes your professor will be willing to give you feedback before you turn the paper in, especially if it’s a term paper or capstone project. Professors often build this feedback into the assignment by setting separate due dates for a proposal, a draft, and a final version. But even if they don’t, it never hurts to ask for feedback. The worst they can say is no.

10. Use a Citation Generator

Adding citations is the worst, especially when you just spent hours writing a paper and are so over it. If you don’t want to spend further hours paging through some arcane style manual, do yourself a favor and use a citation management/generation tool.

My favorite is Zotero, which allows you to keep track of research sources and even has a browser extension that will pull the citation info from a library catalog web page. But I also have friends who prefer EasyBib. It doesn’t matter which one you use–just pick one and watch your citation worries evaporate.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to glance at your citations before submitting, as these tools aren’t perfect (especially when it comes to digital sources).

Bonus Tip: Take a Writing Intensive Class

This tip isn’t strictly part of the paper writing process, but it can make a big difference in your writing speed and quality. At my college, the definition of “writing intensive” varied from professor to professor, but it always meant a class with lots of writing, often one (short) essay per week in addition to a 20+ page final paper.

Each of these classes was intense, but at the end I always found myself a better writer. This went beyond just getting faster, although that was a major benefit. I also found that the quality of my arguments and analyses increased, along with massive improvements in my research skills.

If your college offers classes specifically geared to improve your writing, do yourself a favor and take a least one. Strong writing skills are always a benefit, both in college and beyond.

At the end of the day, writing a paper is still a lot of work. But if you follow the process in this article, you’ll be able to do it more quickly without a loss of quality.

What tactics do you use to speed up the paper writing process? Share them in the comments below, or discuss them in the College Info Geek Community.

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I’m not gonna lie: writing papers sucks. Even as someone who basically writes papers for a living these days, I still viewed every college paper with dread.