I’ve never written anything worthwhile under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Every impressive, forceful, enjoyable word combination I’ve put down is done while completely sober, usually after a period of heavy reading or reflection while walking. It’s entirely possible I’d be much further along as an author if I followed my natural abstemiousness.
For better or worse, I became quite taken with writers like the moral anarchist Hunter S. Thompson, the gloriously weird and largely overrated William S. Burroughs, and the besotted yet noble Charles Bukowski. Like many impaired with youth, I missed the point and went off course. These were not dispsomaniacs who wrote, but great writers who imbibed.
Between the age of 23 and 31 I didn’t touch any alcohol or drugs. I still haven’t had a drop of booze, but I do indulge a fair bit in the Devil’s Cabbage. As far as vices go, this is a rather mild one and is held in check by an obsession. I prefer to sit with a book above any other activity and I am almost incapable of reading while stoned.
All the writing I’ve done high has been terribly solipsistic and too poor to be recommended even as a diversion. I had the same results with alcohol.
It’s possible that I simply have the calculus wrong. Hemingway’s long praised command to “write drunk, edit sober” offers some direction. Christopher Hitchens’ excellent essay from Vanity Fair, “Living Proof,” offers even more.
In the book I’m currently reading, The Count of Monte Cristo there is a fair amount of drug use, mostly hashish and opium, taken mostly for their hallucinogenic properties, but also to aid in sleep, which is said to be enhanced. The Count says these drugs cause, “the boundaries of possibility [to] disappear.” He venerates the experience as Romantic writers of the period did. For many of the Romantics, the ideal of pleasure trumped the ideal of intellect. After all, what was the purpose of the intellect but to help someone conspire to achieve pleasurable outcomes for themselves?
Though I certainly give into pleasure, I also have some ascetic tendencies, which I’ve always thought had aesthetic value. In my fantasies I own an industrial warehouse with nothing in it but an extensive library, a well-equipped gym, an outrageously good sound system, and a comfortable recliner to work from. Here I work from dawn to dusk free of husbandly duties and the weakening distractions of the internet. In this monastic, industrial man cave I read, listen, lift, and write. Nothing more.
Just about everything I’m working on this year is an attempt to manifest this space and free myself to work even harder on writing. The goal, my goal, is to make my entire living independently from reading and writing.
The living writer who most embodies my fantasy creative lifestyle is Henry Rollins. I would be surprised if his work stays widely read after his death, but I could see some of his writing having a cult following amongst lonely men for decades. Something along the lines of Japanese nationalist Yukio Mishima. Especially his essay, “The Iron.”
If you take anything away from reading Rollins, it should be that fortune favors the consistent and distractions should be ruthlessly eliminated. I’ve got less than 20 days of writing for this blog left. In the last year, I will have written hundreds of pages. That was accomplished stealing a little time here and there. I have no doubt that if I had a normal work week to write, I could do even better work. It would be nice to pay off the mortgage so Mrs. Lott will leave me be about career, but all I really want from this writing is to be able to do more of it.