March 08, 2004


I started drinking last night, just a little rum to start the creative juices flowing so I can get my submission in on time, and events transpired to get me completely wasted. Now, that happens very rarely. I have a high tolerance, and don't drink to excess. I had my college days like everyone else, but even then I wasn't as big of a drinker as many of my friends. Granted, my friends are rugby players who are known for drinking. I can usually drink and not get drunk, a social drinking attitude many of my mates lack. I think a part of that comes from my family. My dad grew up on what used to be an Anishanabee/Ojibwe rez. He did not drink almost at all. He saw many of his famil and friends ruined by the drink. That also brings up an interesting stereotype that is even supposedly base partly on fact. Most people have heard that Indians are drunk. Hell, in one of my classes at U of M, one of my profs said it. It was in my Afro-American Lit or African-American novel, or teaching in a multi-cultural society class (I can't remember which). We were talking about the stereotypes. How not all black people really like fried chicken, watermelon, etc. How that isn't like Indians who really are all drunks. Needless to say, I was inflamed. I let lose with a tirade that prompted a private apology from the teacher. It seems like some stereotypes die hard. Regardless of the validity, it seems I've had that weight over my head since I've been old enough to drink. My mother is great at reminding me whenever I go home and have A beer. Where they grew up, you were either a drunk, or didn't drink. There was no middle ground.
Now, how does this relate to writing you ask? Well, it seems writers get the same stereotype put upon them. We sit in front of our keyboards writing. Many of the best drink and smoke while they write. The drive to create is metted out with an equal share of self-destructive tendencies. What do we do when the prose won't flow. You can try to do something else, but your mind won't let you. My mind keeps reminding me I should be writing. I feel bad for doing anything else besides sitting in my windowless room typing ream after ream of brillant prose. A realist knows that won't happen all the time. The muse is not a realist. So we fight against her the best we can. Some do not win the fight. I love Shirley Jackson's work, but what it took to get that work from her tortured soul killed her. We focus so much on our work, we can forget life around us. Writers have a strong weight around our necks. Every word we put down will follow us long after we are dead, in a way that even flesh and blood offspring fail to do. That is a hell of a lot of pressure to put on a bunch of squiggly black marks put down on bleached and pressed pieces of wood pulp. Writers also have the added pain of seeing the world through the poet's lens. We are more perceptive to the world around us. Emotions hit us harder, senses are more noticed. We have to train ourselves to put all that we experience into our writing. All the scents and sounds, feelings and pain. Every sour tang that curddles our lips is fodder for our imagination. Perhaps the liqour is a way to artificially numb those senses so we can stop the muse, or to release them and call her into our presence. Nobody ever said it was a perfect plan. No look at the horror writer. You think Proust had demons, what about Lovecraft? Our JOB is to delve into that darkness, wrestle with the demons, and pull them kicking and screaming into the amber light of twilight. We feel the fear, but go on in spite of it. Why are my favorite stories the ones that kept me up for three nights, afraid to shut my eyes, afraid of what the darkness would hold. Perhaps writing is a way to exorcise these demons, but it goes far deeper than that. We find ourselves going deeper and deeper in, until there is no way out but to go even deeper and hopefully come out the other side like Dante down the crack of the Devil's icy ass.
I'm a loner by nature, have been since I was born. I was born functionally deaf, so my formative years were a different millieu than most. I always preferred my own company to that of others. My imagination, my demons, were my friends. I'm not an outgoing person, my speach impediment is a big cause of that. Teaching has helped enormously in that. I'm forced to stand in front of a class full of kids and teach them, and I've become pretty good at it. I guess in the end, it comes down to dealing with the demons. They will never really quiet, but I can at least learn to live with them.

Posted by AaronBennett at March 8, 2004 12:59 PM

GREAT entry! Hope I'm not responsible for driving you to drink (or to get blocked), since this was posted shortly after I sent you my feedback on your project. Although I'm a believer in deadlines, if you ever need an extension, tug my ear and we'll work something out. Since you teach, I have extreme empathy for your work situation.

"Learning to Live With Your Demons" sounds like a good focal point for a story. Run with it!

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at March 8, 2004 09:49 PM

It wasn't you Mike. I posted this before I read your email. It was more personal problems that lead to the block. I like the deadlines, even if I do need an extension. They force me to keep going when I might have given up.

Posted by: AaronBennett at March 8, 2004 11:54 PM
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