Writers Without Vice, or Gonzo Be Damned

The author stereotype is thick with vice. Watch a movie about a writer, writers, or writing and at least one of the characters—fictional or real—is smoking, drinking, or feeding a drug addiction.

And why not? Writing, like any other art or craft is conducted with passion. Words are selected from chaos and flung onto the page into first-draft order—corrected over time through frustration, pain and patience.

Without vice, what compels an intelligent human being to sit in their chair long enough to finish a full-length novel? Why would anyone—how could anyone—create new worlds and construct intricate plots without a drink, a hit, a needle in the arm, or a handful of pills?

For many authors, the nostalgic days of reckless abandon and living vicariously through the Lost Generation have been replaced with healthy eating, a cup of coffee or trade-safe tea, alkaline water, and the occasional glass of red wine. I hear Neil Gaiman likes to jog to the ocean at the end of the lane.

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Yet the words keep coming. Life is still studied and twisted and explored to the extreme, Gonzo be damned.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of vices (clichés are a biggie). In the early stages of my career, getting to the next page was easy—I rubbed the smoke from my eyes and rolled another cigarette. Before I quit smoking in 2007, I was sucking down over eighty hand-rolled, filterless cigarettes per day.

As I have gotten older, I weaned myself off the crutches I felt were necessary to finish my projects. Most recently, insomnia was my vice. I thought by depriving myself of sleep—working until the wee hours of the next day—I would get more done. In truth, I discovered that I could write faster and better in the morning and during the day than I could at night.

Age and experience are not the only reason I was able to give up my vices. The reason I no longer need a crutch is that I want to write—writing is now my habit. I’m too busy writing to think about anything else. There is never a time when I don’t want to sit down and write. In fact, getting up and not writing takes much more energy—though I do like to exercise later in the day.

Before you go thinking that I’m all disciplined, I should mention that I’m not always writing what I am supposed to be writing. There are days when I have articles due, but I’m clicking away writing up a new product or knocking out a chunk of a novel.

I have learned to produce a schedule wherein my deadlines are realistic—there is nothing worse than creative deadlines. If I give myself a week to get two days of work finished, then I know I’ll get it done on time. Occasionally, I have to buckle-down, but I find it is easier to just plan ahead. Some writers create impractical deadlines so often that perhaps failure to hit the target is their vice. And I can’t say I totally disagree with that strategy. A little pressure can light a big fire.

Perhaps writing is my vice. I write when I am inspired; when I am anxious; when I am happy. Writing is my guilty pleasure and my job. I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of happened because writing is my default—the thing I do no matter what.

Continue the adventure…

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  • http://bethturnage.com Beth Turnage

    “writing is now my habit. I’m too busy writing to think about anything else. There is never a time when I don’t want to sit down and write.”–Exactly. Truer words . . .

    • http://www.mrgadfly.com/ MRGADFLY

      Thanks Beth!

  • Phillip Shamblin

    This is quite possibly my favorite piece. It gives the reader a glimpse into the gifted and creative mind of a writer.

    • http://www.mrgadfly.com/ MRGADFLY

      I appreciate the kind words, Phillip.