Writers, Alcohol, and Early Death
July 28, 2013
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Just in time, here’s an article about writers and alcohol. Why “just in time”? Because it seems to be one of the running themes from the writing workshop I’ve been in for the past three days. So many great writers died early — many either from alcoholism or suicide.
The Amis principle – a glassful to relax with at your desk when most of the writing has been done – is fine for those with will power. But there’s the cautionary example of Jack London, who used to reward himself with a drink when he’d done half his daily quota of 1,000 words, then found himself unable to get started without one. The man takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.
What is it about art and creativity that leads so many down the path of self-destruction? I have an idea, but it’s not very well-formed yet. It goes something like this. We spend so much time in our heads. We spend so much time craving the opportunities to be alone and write. We occupy a “career” or hobby that pushes to quiet loneliness (meaning others look at us as being anti-social) while at the same time wanting acceptance. We crave silence — not just outer silence, but inner silence as well. Those words and images and ideas for stories never stop whirring. It’s an alphabet soup on hyperdrive up there in the ol’ noggin.
Drink can do wonderful things to slow down the soup, to quiet if only temporarily the noise in our heads. Even when the reality is that we don’t want to quiet the noise. The noise up there is our imagination at work, it is the source for our creativity. It is what leads us to put words to paper (or computer screens now). To craft stories of varying quality. Quiet it and we die just a bit, let it continue to roar and we can become overwhelmed.
I think this. Writers, like other artists, live in a world that is a bit different than those who don’t try to create. We slip in and out of that world and it can be a difficult balance to maintain. Maybe we live a little bit more on the edge between sanity and insanity, acceptance and depression as a result. Or maybe I’m just thinking far too much about this. 🙂