When was super depressed, I wasn’t working—I was always too depressed. Hemingway did his best work when he didn’t drink, then he drank himself to death and blew his head off with a shotgun. Someone asked John Cheever, “What’d you learn from Hemingway?” and he said “I learned not to blow my head off with a shotgun.” I remember going to the Michigan poetry festival, meeting Etheridge Knight there and Robert Creeley. Creeley was so drunk—he was reading and he only had one eye, of course, and had to hold his book like two inches from his face using his one good eye. But you look at somebody like George Saunders—I think he’s the best short story writer in English alive—that’s somebody who tries very hard to live a sane, alert life.
You’re present when you’re not drinking a fifth of Jack Daniel’s every day. It’s probably better for your writing career, you know? I think being tortured as a virtue is a kind of antiquated sense of what it is to be an artist.
In an interview with The Fix, Mary Karr debunks the toxic mythology that it is necessary to be damaged in order to be creative. My own vehement defiance to that mythology is what led me to choose Ray Bradbury – the ultimate epitome of creating from joy rather than suffering – as the subject of my contribution to The New York Times’ The Lives They Lived.
Pair with Karr on why writers write.
It took me a long time to understand this.
When creating while depressed (and sometimes drinking) my work felt I was yelling underwater while waves crashed overhead. Unstructured and flailing efforts. There were occasions when my inhibitions and barriers were lowered enough that I did face some things that I had buried deep but that can be a fine line to dance on.
I don’t regret those times, it was part of my growth process. I don’t know if it had to happen the way it did but I am in a much better place today and I know I’m heading in the right direction so I see no point in saying I should’ve done something differently.
My work is still exploring some rather dark subject matter (which I haven’t posted anywhere, I’m keeping it close at the moment) but it feels different. There is a level of disconnect from the awful events I’m still trying to make sense of but my therapist thinks I’m doing it in a healthy way. I’m confronting it and putting things into a context that I have established, not being overwhelmed, reacting and creating out of desperation.
I don’t know if it’s my best work but it doesn’t matter. There’s a clarity and focus that I’m finding that feels right… and my work isn’t tearing me apart.
meanwhile i just opened a bottle of rose.
(Source: , via artcomingoutofmyfists)