Friday 16 August 2013

Write Sober, Edit Sober

I know this isn't Hemmingway or King

Author Craig Wallwork posted an interesting article on his Facebook page today. It concerns creativity and addiction for the most part, and how the two seem to be connected. Read it here, if your interest is peeked.

I'll put my hand up and admit that I don't do the addiction myth in writers any favours (or I do it too many favours depending on your POV). Check my Twitter timeline and you'll see references to booze, the odd picture of a particular tipple that I'm just delighted to be enjoying and conversations with real-life friends about meeting up for a drink.

While I'm being honest, I do go through periods of drinking too much. And I have to correct my behaviour from time to time. I can do that, I'm lucky. But in the back of my mind I have an image of an elastic band. You can only stretch it so many times before it shows signs of wear. Eventually it'll snap. You heard of the saying, "The devil's greatest trick was to convince the world he didn't exist," right? And drink is the devil's vomit according to some.

Don't worry. All this talk of the devil isn't my way of turning to religion for guidance. I'm Irish. We talk about devils and fairies at the drop of a hat. A big green hat with a black band, gold buckle and shamrocks hanging off the brim.

But I do want to highlight another saying that is attributed to a writer of godlike status in many minds. Not mine, by the way, but that's more to do with a deficit in my reading. I mean, I've heard he can sling a word or two.

Ernest Hemmingway said, "Write drunk, edit sober."

A friend of mine knows far more about Hemmingway than I do. Has studied his work and his reputation. He reckons ol' Ernie was full of shit on that one. Granted, this friend no longer drinks, so that may have coloured his perception. On the other hand, I was delighted to hear him challenge it.

If you've read as much Stephen King as I have, you'll have encountered the legend that he doesn't remember writing CUJO due to drink and drugs. Something he regrets, naturally. My impish nature is tempted to suggest that that doesn't sound too bad to me. Go on a bender and still produce a book that became a movie? One that still gets referenced today when people see big, mean dogs? Have that little nugget of badassery in your past?

But then family man me thinks about the other stuff Mister King must have missed. And it makes me a bit sad.

Now, I don't talk for every writer out there. A lot of the time, I'm too distracted or busy to talk for me. Occaisionally, I'm way too drunk to talk for me, but that doesn't stop me if you bump into me. Apologies in advance and in hindsight to all those that suffered my booze-breath and disjointed conversations. But right here, right now, I'm sober, coffee-buzzed and looking forward to a couple of cold ones later. Because I don't plan to write tonight or tomorrow morning.

Yeah, writers should write every day. I don't.

There are plenty of things I should do that I don't.

There are only so many things I can't do when I decide I want to do them, though. I can't watch an adult eat a banana without giggling (I know, I'm suitably abashed, but bananas are for kids and monkeys, people) and I can't write when I'm drunk. Not won't, not don't, just can't.

And I thank the God that may or may not exist for that.

Writing is work. Work that I enjoy. Even so, work first, play later.

And consider the notion that the devil might actually exist.

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