Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Does Recovery Kill Great Writing?

quote [ The first time I told the story of my drinking, I sat among other drinkers who no longer drank. Ours was a familiar scene: circled folding chairs, foam cups of coffee gone lukewarm, phone numbers exchanged. Before the meeting, I imagined what might happen after it was done: People would compliment my story or the way I’d told it, and I’d demur, Well, I’m a writer, shrugging, trying not to make too big a deal out of it. I practiced with notecards beforehand. ]

I see some validity to this.

The bulk of my writing over the past 13 years has been greatly influenced by my experences with drugs (primarily hallucinogens). I am drinking at a bar right now, actually. I went up and spoke about randomness and chaos for their weekly open mic, finished with a poem I co-wrote this past weekend with a random word generator. I am too inebriated to think of any great sober literature I have read. Only sober person I know of who I find inspiring is Penn Jillette.
[SFW] [literature] [+2 Interesting]
[by JWWargo@9:13amGMT]


Abdul Alhazred said @ 4:15am GMT on 11th Apr [Score:2]
Mpf. I have thought a lot about this over the years. Only I have never been that heavy of a drinker.

For me it's bipolar, or my preferred term, manic depression. When you have that shit going on, the world looks different to you than to most people- either wonderfully bright and exciting or dark and horrible, or sometimes both. You deeply question your own judgment- how can this thing that I found so beautiful two days ago now be so repellent? The thing itself didn't change, my perceptions did. Therefore my perceptions are not to be trusted.

At my most prolific I was blasting out a 3000 word story in a couple of hours. Some were dark and moody, some were goofy bits of humor, generally they drew praise- but they were all written when I was either on a serious upswing or on the way down into a bad crash. Mostly they were written on the way down-the funny stuff was coming from that twisted part of me that finds dark humor everywhere.

But then I had a really major crash that put me at the edge of suicide. My girlfriend- now my wife- got me into a doctor who put me on meds and settled me out. I now don't get the crashes like I used to.

And I rarely write anymore.
5th Earth said @ 12:35pm GMT on 10th Apr [Score:1 Informative]
Of the top of my head, Isaac Asimov very rarely had alcohol and never anything else.
Hugh E. said @ 6:55pm GMT on 10th Apr [Score:1 Underrated]
Fun experiment suggestion: Take a sober moment and listen to an inebriated person speak about randomness and chaos and recite a poem co-written with a random word generator and let us know what you think.
JWWargo said @ 9:27pm GMT on 10th Apr [Score:1 Underrated]
After I got off stage, a woman approached me and started asking questions about the poem. She said she was a slam poet and really appreciated the piece.
When I sat back down at the bar, a couple guys next to me started asking about the MarI/O program, which I spoke about as well. And other than a handshake from my number one fan at that bar, everyone else there was pretty nonplussed with my performance.

I'm used to that. Majority of open mics on Oahu are music oriented and that's what the audience is there for (aside from the booze). In fact, when I first started performing at this particular bar a year and a half ago, I had to ask the MC if it was OK for me to go up and tell a story. He was reluctant, but agreed to let me go up for just 5 minutes (performers normally get 3 songs or 15 minutes). The audience enjoyed what I was doing so I was invited to come back any time.

I try to experiment often with life. Since I was 20, around the time I started taking my writing more seriously and began to contemplate a career in it, I have periodically done detoxes where I quit using all illicit drugs, legal drugs like OTCs, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol...etc. and even lower my salt and sugar intake. These detoxes have lasted from a couple months to my most recent one which lasted a year and a half.

But I've also been grappling with depression for the past 4 years and that has effected my writing also. During that 18 month sober period I only finished a draft of one new short story. It wasn't influenced by any psychoactive chemicals, but by what I was going through emotionally at the time.
Bruceski said @ 7:08pm GMT on 10th Apr
Nothing is a better advertisement for sobriety than being the designated driver for a guy who fancies himself a writer. The whole way home he was loudly composing poetry about this woman from the party's maidenhead (his words).
arrowhen said @ 7:41pm GMT on 10th Apr
That guy would still be a dipshit sober, he just wouldn't have the guts to be a dipshit out loud.
Bruceski said @ 7:53pm GMT on 10th Apr
I don't disagree, it just makes me wonder what demons I'd let out if I drank.
Paracetamol said @ 2:39pm GMT on 10th Apr
One of my favorite books is “Chump Change” and deals with that topic, too. Dan Fante is the son of John Fante who influenced Bukowski.
rylex said[1] @ 4:25pm GMT on 10th Apr
I think maybe someone is confusing their writing as once being "great"

Also, Dick Dale is a sober being whom i find inspiring
JWWargo said @ 9:01pm GMT on 10th Apr
Unsure if that is a jab at the writer of this article or me, or both.

I've never considered anything I wrote "great" or would even use that word to describe any of my stories. "Great" tends to equals "popular" in many instances. I wrote the short novel that I got published during my travels when I was sober 95% of the time. I didn't have extra money to spend on drugs so only partook when offered by others. It's currently got a 4.5/5 star rating on Amazon, but I don't use that as a measure of its greatness or success because none of the reviews are very critical, more like "Fun!" and "reminds me of Kafka!", and I've sold only around 200 copies in 5 years so it's not popular. I don't even like reading excerpts from it on stage anymore, my internal editor and critic start going batshit crazy over how much better (subjectively speaking) the book could have been.

During the actual act of writing, I am sober. By "influenced" I mean drugs like marihuana, psilocybin, and LSD get me thinking about things in ways I haven't before, and perhaps give me a few new ideas, too, which finds its way into my writing in both subtle and overt ways.
rylex said @ 9:57pm GMT on 10th Apr
Jab at the writer of the article silly. I aint had the pleasure of reading anything you written yet.
JWWargo said @ 10:25pm GMT on 10th Apr
Well then, here's a shorty if ya like called SCRAMBLED HEARTS. Originally published on a now defunct website called Unicorn Knife Fight, it was also republished in an 2014 issue of the Belgian magazine "Kluger Hans":

Two eggs were rolling together down the sidewalk at approximately sixty-two miles per hour. Both eggs happened to roll through a very minute pocket dimension outside objective reality when the end of the world occurred. The eggs emerged from the pocket dimension and found themselves in an endless void. They continued rolling onward.

Thirteen point four billion years later they came across a singularity. The first egg stopped next to the dimensionless being, the second kept rolling.

The first egg cracked open and from inside it emerged a life insurance salesman and an ancient goddess nobody ever talks about anymore. 'Huh,' the singularity snorted, 'Never would've expected to see you with the likes of him.'

The goddess became very irritated by this remark. 'Is it really that difficult to imagine I like to date outside my supernatural sphere,' she said.

'No,' replied the singularity, 'But what could he possibly have to offer you?'

The goddess hadn't really thought about it before. She knew her existence had grown kind of monotonous. Over the ages, her worshipers had dwindled down to practically nothing. A while ago she went to earth and got a job as a server at Poot-'N-Annies, an all-night diner located off exit 444 of Interstate 33, Middle of Nowhere, USA. She had grown content with her new life, but something was still missing.

Harold, the life insurance salesman, was traveling in an egg on business and stopped into the 'Poot' for some coffee. He had been rolling for eighteen hours straight and needed that final helping push to get home. Delirious from sleep deprivation, he began thinking out loud about things he normally wouldn't tell strangers.

'What'll ya have, hun,' said the goddess, giving her best customer service smile.

'I was bitten by a black widow when I was a child,' Harold muttered back, staring at the salt shaker, 'Coffee.'

The goddess was taken aback, and her subconscious serving instincts kicked in.

'B-,' she started, 'B-black?'

Harold looked up from the salt-shaker at her. She instantly regretted asking, it must have sounded so cruel to him.

Harold merely shrugged.

'Is there any other kind?'

The goddess was insanely smitten. She brought out two black coffees and they talked until dawn. She quit her job that morning and joined him in his egg, rolling off into the sunrise.

'I don't know, maybe his honest demeanor,' the goddess said. 'He treats me as an equal, not like the omnipotent immortal that I am. I think that's what I've been looking for all these millennia.'

The singularity looked at Harold. 'You think she really loves you?'

Harold wasn't one to waste an opportunity.

'You know, the first few hundred million years or so after a Big Bang can be dangerous. Are you insured?'

The second egg ended up rolling into a pot of boiling water. The heat eventually cracked it open to reveal a new universe inside. One with no life insurance salesmen, and punctuated by the sound of a weeping goddess lamenting the loss of someone she'll never meet.
rylex said @ 2:21am GMT on 11th Apr
That wasn't too terrible. Feel free to give up your day job
JWWargo said @ 4:39am GMT on 11th Apr
Hehe, me having a career in fiction writing is as likely as an actual unicorn knife fight.
midden said @ 11:40pm GMT on 10th Apr
On a similar, but obviously very different note, I remember reading in the John Nash bio, A Beautiful Mind, that he felt his recovery from schizophrenia had a seriously deleterious effect on his work in number and game theory.

Post a comment
[note: if you are replying to a specific comment, then click the reply link on that comment instead]

You must be logged in to comment on posts.

Posts of Import
4 More Years!
SE v2 Closed BETA
First Post
Subscriptions and Things
AskSE: What do you look like?

Karma Rankings