Writing Is My Drug …

writing is my drugThis morning I was reading Stephen King’s On writing – A Memoir of the Craft, which is an amazing book I’d love to share more detail on, but that’s another blog entirely. For today I’ll just focus on one aspect. He talks briefly about the idea put forward by many artists that creativity and mind altering substances go hand in hand. Stephen King himself suffered from addiction, first alcohol then drugs. At the time he was afraid that without them he would lose his ability to be creative, even though he started writing long before he started drinking. Once he’d overcome these addictions he realised it was a myth.

It made me think about the idea and how many musicians, writers, painters, etc. claim drugs enhance their creativity but I have to say in my mind it couldn’t be more opposite. I’m not going to get on my high-horse and say these people shouldn’t take drugs, it’s  a personal choice, if that’s what works for them that’s fine but ultimately Stephen King said it right. “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because that’s what alkies are wired up to do.”

I don’t take drugs and I don’t drink but that’s not to say I haven’t in the past. In fact despite my current herbal tea, yoga and meditation ritual I used to be quite a party animal. The truth is: ever since writing became such an active part of my life I no longer feel the need to engage in any of that. I still socialise and go to parties, I dance and laugh—I absolutely know how to have a good time but getting wasted doesn’t tempt me in the slightest.

I certainly have never bordered near the extreme of alcoholic but I won’t lie, it used to be a means of escape. When I was unsure of myself and my mind was constantly racing I didn’t know what else to do with myself. Sometimes when I needed to relax there was nothing quite like a beer at the end of the day.  I guess it also enhanced social situations but in reality I do just fine without it. It’s just that writing has now substituted it completely. I no longer have thousands of thoughts and ideas trapped in my head, they have an outlet and the more creativity there is in my life the more balanced I feel.

The imagination is an amazing place, I don’t think it needs substances to make it richer. If you want to take drugs take drugs but don’t say you have to do it for the sake of your art. If you feel the inclination to be creative chances are it’s because your brain is built that way. Regardless of whether you take drugs or not it’s going to exist. If you’ve taught yourself you can only work when you’re under the influence then that’s probably what will happen. Take all of that away—the creativity still exists you just need to give it a chance to find its own way out.

“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Amen Stephen King.

The Hemmingway Challenge

The Hemmingway Challenge

How many words does it take to write a story? Well someone bet Ernest Hemmingway he couldn’t write a complete story in six words, but he did.

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’

It’s short and simple but heartbreaking and effective. Six words is all it took.

 

One of the most important pieces of advice for any writer, if you can write it with less words—do. It sounds simple but it actually takes a lot of practice. There are words we put into our sentences that often don’t need to be there. It makes for cleaner writing, there is less distraction for the reader and it means they can actually think for themselves.

One of the dangers writing a novel is the lack of restriction, you start off knowing you have all the words in the world, there’s no reason to keep your sentences concise because, let’s face it—the thicker your book the more impressive it is. Caught up in a creative moment it can be hard to write cleanly. I tend to use all the words I want and cut them out during editing, but if I could learn to write with less words, it would save me a lot of time in the long run.

To give you an idea of figures, I’ve just been editing 4 manuscripts with a total word count of 465 000, the story hasn’t changed at all but I managed to take out 39 000 completely useless words. Perhaps that’s the reason writers are encouraged to work on short stories first.

I’ve never been passionate about writing short stories and I haven’t read many either but I firmly believe it’s a great way to practice language. I recently read a book containing 23 short stories, initially I found it hard to get used to the style but towards the end I started to appreciate things the author didn’t say.  For the sake of self development I’ve decided to take the Hemmingway Challenge.

Here’s my six word story, it certainly isn’t Hemmingway but I know writers will relate.

—     Wrote it, read it, deleted it.

When I began researching for this blog I came across plenty of other authors taking the six word story challenge, here’s the link if you’re interested in reading a few more … and why not take the Hemmingway Challenge yourself?

www.sixwordstories.net