Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Demon

I'm continuing to read The Forest for the Trees, and while it isn't breathtakingly illuminating, it is at somewhat thought-provoking. I just finished the chapter on how writing and alcoholism seem to often go hand in hand. It starts out innocently enough, a drink to loosen up and inspire before sitting down to write. But in almost every case, as you might expect, eventually the drinking kept them from writing instead of making it possible. As Shakespeare said about sex and alcohol, "It builds you up, but then it ... lets you down."
Apparently, the last generation of writers considered being hard-drinking to be a character trait essential to maintain the "image of the artist." Let me just say that I'm glad this at least has changed (or at least is changing very quickly). We're starting to see that no matter how much the alcohol may help to begin with, it the end it always is the main source that ended a career (an sometimes a life).

Now, I do drink. I like alcohol, and I don't have any moral compunction not to drink (Jesus drank wine, don't forget). The problem here is not the alcohol itself, it's relying on anything to "get your Muse going." Your Muse should come from you and your love of writing and your desire to communicate, be it a good story or an illuminating piece of non-fiction. I don't care if it's alcohol or pink pajamas, anytime you rely on something other than yourself and your life for inspiration, you're asking for trouble. At best you're hamstringing your talent; at worst, you could be destroying it altogether.

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