Sunday, October 2, 2011

Writer vs User


I grew up with the idea of the 'impaired writer', such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway, men who drank to excess and were brilliant at what they did. There were others, as well. It seemed the common theme of the best writers as I developed my idea of what was a writer was their dependence on drugs and alcohol. My favorite modern writer, Stephen King, was just the latest example.

Missed on my young mind was the fact that those writers wrote well despite their abuses, rather than because of their habits. Writing drunk or writing high, that isn't maxing your potential.

I learned this as an adult. I have a hangover now and it doesn't help me form sentences. Last night I was more interested in drinking and laughing and hanging out with family and friends than I was in being a writer.

Granted, it takes about three beers to make me goofy and anything harder I might as well kiss my brain and balance goodbye. As far as other happy hour choices, I say no. I understand my limits.

Maybe you read this and say, 'I can drink and smoke and snort and, good goddamn! can I write!'

All I can say is, write fast. That stuff catches everyone and eventually you will deteriorate and in today's new writing dynamic, writing is increasingly about volume. You will not be able to write one great novel every few years and live the high life in style. The market is drying up for that sort of writer.

Being impaired slows a writer down. You might be the rare writer who can buck the odds, but not for ever, and not long enough.

I'm not saying, stop having fun. I'm saying simply that at some point you have to make a choice. You can be a writer, or you can be a user. If you do either hard, there is rarely room for both for long.

2 comments:

L'Aussie said...

Hi Michael. Thank you for following me. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.

Enjoyed this post and some of your previous posts.I'm a great fan of Hemingway, but even though he over indulged in his whisky etc he was super disciplined. He wrote from 5am - midday he says, and then he spent the rest of the day rubbing shoulders with other writers etc. That was when he lived in Paris in his hungry years.

As well as having natural talent, he had awesome discipline. Oh for some of that!

The only bevvie I drink too much of is coffee and I think that helps my writing. I'm rubbish after a wine so that's for when I'm not writing.

Nice to meet you.

Denise

MT Nickerson said...

Nice to meet you, Denise.

Wish I could remember where I read this particular article (I'll look for it when I can), but it is an interesting read and concerns writers and their later careers and the work they produced.

I like Hemingway- really many of the writers of the era- but I often wonder what they could have done with the excesses.

There's a fine line between abuse and use and each person is different as to their particular tolerance. I think it is important for young writers to recognize the dangers and be aware that just because a talented writer like Hemingway could abuse and still produce, that doesn't mean they can as well.

Anyway. Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading!