Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Writing As Temporary Insanity. Discuss.

Playing in the background: The soothing sudsy noise of the washing machine.
Meters swum today: None. Overslept. But I'll probably ride my bike down around the lake later.

Repeat 100 times: I Will Not Write Under The Influence of Politics. I Will Not Write Under The Influence Of Politics. I Will Not...well, you get the idea. Having calmed down a little and wiped the foam off my face, and in the clearer light of - uh, midafternoon, I can see how that image about the severed head might have upset a few people. I'll offer no apologies but I will say That's Not Normally Like Me. Brahma vijara maitri and all that.

Thing is, almost all writing is done under the influence of something. Sane sober people hardly ever see the need to sit at a keyboard and type all day for something they may not even get paid for. There are all these jokes about alcoholic poets (I like the one where the poet, sobering up after a long night with the quill, refuses a cup of the blood of life, that is, my favorite stimulant, saying, "Certainly not. Coffee is for novelists.") and of course lots of real writers were serious hardcore addicts of one form or another. Wilde (booze, inflated ego), Poe (booze), Hemingway (pretty much anything he could get his hands on but mainly booze), Hunter S. Thompson (I think heroin mostly), Bret Easton Ellis (God only knows), Anne McCaffrey (whatever it is, I want some). I have the food thing, and I did drink a bit in my day. But honestly, I think writing is closer to temporary insanity. At least, it is for me.

Take last weekend, for example, when I abruptly wrapped up Spellbinder in a bizarre 18-hour binge of wordplay. I was way, way deep in San Sebastian most of that time (my fake Latin American country, named after my late cat and in homage to Hemingway; it's standing in for El Salvador) but I do recollect a few things. Like sitting at the keyboard and thinking, "I'm thirsty," then about two hours later noticing that I was still thirsty because (wait for it) when I noticed the first time that I was thirsty, it flat out didn't occur to me to frick'n get up and get a bottle of water. Another time I remember Joan asked me a question and I answered with "I don't know, I'm not really here." Joan, by the way, frequently sees me glaze over and asks me "Where did you go?" I guess assuming that I'm visiting the Pure Land or some alternate reality; usually I'm thinking about something much more mundane like shopping lists or how not to trim the cat's nails next time. Even when I'm not putting in marathon weekends, though, I'm often up too late, spend too much time thinking about writing when I should be Mindful Of The Present Moment (ie, driving), and calling up friends in the middle of dinner parties to ask if you can drink heroin (ask Gaby about this, she thought it was pretty hilarious).

So, like, is this healthy? Is this halfway normal? Do other writers do stuff like this or am I unique? And if it's not akin to abusing a substance, why does it feel like (as most brilliant stated by Rod "The Bod" Stewart) "I got lightning in my veins, and the rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum"?

I guess it's better than heroin. It is legal, after all.

Incidentally, thanks, Joan, for putting up with me. Again. Still.


C.I. said...

Putting up with you? My pleasure, sweetie.

(Oh, and she didn't make it to the lake. She says she's going to drag me, kicking and screaming, to the gym. After dinner. Yeah. Right. )

Yueheng said...


I have recently created a blog to discuss Progressive Pure Land Buddhism. Please feel free to check it out! :)

Jen Ster said...

Hi, Yueheng! Thanks for inviting me - I did stop by and this is fascinating stuff. I will be back.