Last weekend I set a goal of finishing a blog post for Skepchick and writing a new post for this here personal blog thing. On Saturday night, I sat down in my office and started poking at the things on my computer screen. But my roommate was hosting a birthday party in the living room, and at some point the cake and the merriment were just too enticing to ignore. There went Saturday.
On Sunday evening I gave it another shot. It seemed like a good night for writing—my boyfriend was also in his office writing; the temperature was perfect; there was a kegger next door a few feet from my office window, but the fan in my office did a pretty good job of drowning out the party sounds; and I didn’t have anything urgent happening to draw my attention from the task at hand.
I finished neither post. I wasn’t feeling inspired, and I didn’t want to create sub par writing.
The Skepchick article required a bit of research, so I spent a couple of hours reading articles before I started typing. (Hey, I want to make sure I get things right if I’m writing for a skeptical audience!) I composed a few paragraphs, but at some point I was just too sleepy to continue. As for this blog, I promised myself I would write something soon. Later. Really.
Alcohol lowers your inhibitors across the board. The same magic that sometimes enables you to start crying about your Dad for no reason can also enable you, briefly, to admit that you hate what you’re trying to write and why you hate it, and what you would therefore love to write. And if you can write down these epiphanies in the sweet spot between euphoria and blackout, ten percent of the time you’ll have a new approach to your current job. Booze, however, is the Agent Orange in the war against writer’s block. It’s graceless, it’s ungodly and it’s not just foliage you’re damaging. There’s prices to pay. Forever.
Which reminds me of this infamous comic from xkcd:
Writing after drinking is something I’d never done before, so I decided to give it a try. Last night, three beers went down the hatch—for science!—before I sat down. I ended up with a post that I couldn’t in good conscience make live, titled: “I’m Sorry, I’m Having a Hard Time Caring About Your Baby Bump.” It recalled recent conversations with my pregnant sister. (I see why Hemingway said “Write drunk; edit sober.”)
Tonight I went to dinner with the boyfriend, a professional writer, and had three beers with my delicious barbecue. We talked about writing and how much he hates to write when he doesn’t feel like writing. Yet it’s his occupation! He does it anyway, somehow, even when he’s not in the mood.
After we got home I sat down at the computer again, resolving to pound out whatever popped into my boozy brain. So this is what I came up with: I wrote a meta-post about writing. But I’m not going to make a habit of drinking when I write. In addition to the obvious downsides, it’s too hard to find that productive zone, and sleeping sounds really good right now…
Besides hitting the hooch, that Harmon guy had some other good advice:
If you’re ever going to be a good writer, then you probably tend to be afraid you’re a bad writer. Instead of trying to prove you’re good, try to prove you’re bad. At least the ball will start MOVING on the field. I always tell young writers, “start proving to yourself how bad you are.” Make a joke out of it. Write a draft that you know you’re going to throw in the garbage, or show to your friends for a laugh, a profanely irresponsible piece of shit draft that in which you absolutely fight for the team that you REALLY believe in – the one that says you stink. Pretend your Mom keeps asking you “why don’t you just finish something,” and write the thing designed to shut her the fuck up. THIS is why I don’t just do it, Mom, because it would look like THIS, this thing that SUCKS. Show her. Don’t even waste time on it, the faster you go, the more it will suck and the more you’ll win the fight against yourself.
So I’m not even going to wait until I’m sober before I edit and post this. Take that, Mom, you bitch.
P.S.: My mom is actually quite nice most of the time. (Sorry, Mom!)