Monday, July 13, 2009

Drinking and writing

Most people who know me know I like to have a drink in the evening--either wine with dinner, or an after dinner drink.  If I'm spending the evening watching a movie or hanging out with friends rather than sitting at the computer (hopefully writing) I sometimes have a second drink.  I don't when I'm writing unless something is wrong with my head or I'm being dumb.  

I have lots of reasons.  One reason (it's not just laziness keeping me from hopping up the stairs for seconds) is that for me writing while impaired is a lot like driving when impaired.  I'm a big girl (around 165-170 pounds) but not big enough for two drinks while maintaining a clear head.  And I never want to drink so much that I develop a tolerance.  It's not only hell on the liver, but it's expensive, and alcohol is very, very high in calories.  I don't even want to think about how much physical training I'd have to do to maintain my (not very) svelt figure (such as it is) if I drank a lot.

I believe some folks feel (I've heard this in an indistinct way, not specifically in reference to anyone I know) that it relaxes them and gets them into a frame of mind conducive to creativity.  Well, in my experience a relaxed, dreamy state of mind or buzzed, fuzzy connection with reality generates cliche'-ridden dialogue, dense, purple prose and a lack of sensual clarity in scenes.  When I'm painting it's even worse.  Ironically, I tend to drink more when I'm painting than when I'm writing.  Might explain a few things ... and it shows I'm not as serious about my painting as I am my writing, if the comparative time expended on these things wasn't already an indication.

I'm unwilling to get rip-roaring drunk (Kami thinks about a double workout and shudders) to compare sober writing with drunk writing here on my blog, and I haven't preserved any written-while-blotto scenes--they weren't worth saving the very few times I've written under the influence of more than a solo drink.  I don't want anyone to do it as an experiment, but, if you happen to have written something while smashed, and kept it, I hope you'll offer your findings in the comments.  Maybe we could even have a first draft drunk vs. first draft while sober contest or something.

Anyway, even if I discovered that I did in fact write better while drunk, I don't think I could pursue drunk writing.  My body may be a transitory, temporary thing, and it is possible for the written word to be quite lasting by comparison, but I love life too much.  I want to enjoy the experiences outside of writing as much as I enjoy writing itself, and it would be difficult to do that in a body that's falling apart.  I listen to the struggles of dear friends with serious health problems and can't bear to think of deliberately debilitating myself when I could (and do) have the very thing that they strive for and dream about.  Health.  Hell, I know a few who would do anything for a pain-free hour.  I have those all the time.  Life can be really unfair.  

For another person, I guess having a working liver versus brilliant prose might seem an equitable trade, assuming they're a fair judge of their own work.

Besides, it would be really hard for me to collect those real-life experiences that comprise much of the fodder for my fiction if I'm impaired, whether it's with liver disease or constant drunkenness or excess weight (my knees are in really bad shape--I'd be immobilized if I was heavy.)  Rock climbing.  Paragliding.  Scuba diving.  Hiking.  Skiing.  Playing with the dogs.  Gardening.  Martial arts.  I'm thinking about taking fencing this autumn, and I'm gleeful that I have that chance.  

When I think about an ideal self, I think of a writer with both physical and emotional strength and clear eyes, a sharp mind and reflexes even quicker than her wit who's explored the world, listened to interesting people--a woman who loves her friends and family who love her in return, and who can respond effectively in an emergency.  That's within my reach.  I don't want to piss it away.  The chance to become my ideal won't always be mine to have for the effort.  That's life in a physical body.  Mine is sacred.  Body and brain are entwined, so, no drinking and writing for me.  

Even though wine is really, really tasty and it's so nice to sip.  And Navan ... mmm ...

Time for tea.  It's also nice to sip, and I don't have to watch how much I drink.  Yay!

1 comment:

The Moody Minstrel said...

I've long had a similar habit (as I posted about on my blog not so long ago). However, there have been a few occasions when I composed music while moderately tanked, mainly because I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to do so.

While I was letting the music flow onto the paper (and struggling to keep it clear and readable), it felt so beautiful, so glorious, so overwhelming...

...and when I looked at it later it just seemed totally lame. I never bothered keeping any of them.