Thursday, 19 September 2013

Can A Little of What You Fancy Do Your Writing Good?

Writers are creative people, yeah? And creative people are sensitive, requiring a higher degree of stimulation in their daily lives than non-creative people.

(Not in a kinky way, of course. Well, okay, maybe some... s'okay, I won't ask. Not my business after all...)

This is the reasoning behind the popular idea that many writers have vices - which, in spite of messing up their everyday lives on a scale of 'not that much' to 'monumentally,' are also what 'fuels their genius' and 'frees their creativity.' Hemingway, for instance; a man renowned as much for being a great drunk as a great writer. Lots of creative types in other fields are also well-known for having a strong liking for stuff that's not entirely good for them; Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones regularly consumed enough drugs to floor an elephant.

This has led to another popular idea/myth; that, without those hedonistic lifestyles, these people would not have been able to create their masterpieces. The drink/drugs/debauched sex orgies were the oxygen for the raging fire burning within; take away that and there would never even have been a spark, never mind a flame.

Sorry, but I think that's mostly bollocks.

When Hemingway famously said "Write drunk, edit sober" people probably took his words a little too literally because of his obvious liking for the former state. I'm willing to bet that the 'drunk' he was talking about was more to do with shutting out your internal censor, writing without stopping to read over what you're writing - not 'drink Jack Daniels until you're writing in your own drunken drool.' I doubt even he would have got much writing done in that state. All the same, the idea persists that his problem with the falling-down-juice was as much what 'made' him a writer as the fact that he... well, y'know, wrote. Would he never, ever have achieved what he did if he'd just limited himself to a couple of beers a week? Seriously?

Then there's Stephen King; in the earlier years of his writing career he admitted to being a massive coke-head, whacking out bestseller novel after bestseller novel while flying high as a kite on the white stuff. He hasn't touched drugs for over twenty years now, but he's still just as prolific - and as popular - as he ever was. He didn't need the drugs to be great at what he did - he already was.

So no, if you want to become a better writer, taking the kind of 'trip' that doesn't involve some form of transport is not a required part of the process. Sure, some dubious substances make you hallucinate, see wondrous visions, smell colours or simply transform your iPhone into Robert Pattinson's butt-cheeks. That's not your imagination on fire. That's just your brain going funny, and it doesn't just happen for the 'creative types,' it happens for the dunderheads too. Y'know, the kind of people who think The Jeremy Kyle Show is a documentary...

On the other hand... there is another school of thought that's become popular recently to at least preach about, even if it's not necessarily practised. You've probably heard it at least once or twice - feel free to stop me if this sounds familiar...

'A creative mind requires a healthy body; you should eat only healthy food that nourishes you, and take plenty of exercise to keep yourself fit - don't put junk food into your body, you must treat it like a temple in order to be a productive writer... ohmmm... *sound of wind chimes*...'

Sorry, but I think that's bollocks too. Well, just a little bit anyway.

I like chocolate. No, let me put that into better perspective. There are times when I would crawl through fire, acid rain and shards of broken glass for chocolate. Chocolate, however, as all those nutritionist-types and Government Health Officials will tell you, is Bad. Naughty. To add to this, I also have a medical condition similar to diabetes type II which means I have to restrict my sugar intake - bad news if I had any plans to embark on The Chocolate Diet. So I don't eat it as often as I'd like to - along with all other sugar-packed naughties like tomato-based sauces, bread (yes, bread!) and - somewhat surprisingly - an awful lot of diet foods (honestly - check the packets. Who knew, eh?)

But here's my confession... when I'm drying up on the writing front, when nothing's coming and I feel like I have the world's worse case of literary constipation - I eat chocolate. And not just your cheap, everyday bar of chocolate either. I'm talking badass chocolate; the really good-quality stuff with a ridiculously high cocoa content and the ability to make you put on ten pounds just by reading the ingredients on the wrapper. Hey-ell yeah - bring it on, baby!

And you know what? It helps. It always helps. Badass chocolate never lets me down! 'Treat my body like a temple?' Pffft - yeah right - only if it's a chocolate temple! Yes, I know, before you even say it - the effect is psychological rather than because of any magical wonder-substance in Badass Chocolate (why has nobody marketed a product called that? Hell, I'd buy it..!) Don't care. It works.

A little of what you fancy does do your writing good - don't be bullied by the Healthy Body Healthy Mind Brigade! Embrace your chosen vice; chocolate, coffee, cake, pizza, whatever - for those times when your writing soul needs a big hug. (Although I'd still discourage embracing hard drugs as your chosen vice, of course - 'a little of what you fancy that's not illegal and likely to seriously mess you up' is more what I mean.)

Just remember though, that - like a hug - if it goes on too long and with too much enthusiasm it gets restricting and just a little bit creepy.

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