Vices with Brendan Behan: Day 13 of Project 365

Writer's Block 1

I am a drinker with writing problems.Brendan Behan

It’s Friday! And today’s theme is vices!

I don’t know many writers without some vice or another. Writing, after all, is hard. When you’re three days into a piece and you’re suddenly gripped with the very sure knowledge that the piece is going nowhere, that is a difficult realization for any writer to go through. And we all do.

We can’t go and speak with our friends, our parents, our children (unless, perhaps, they are also writers). We work alone in a quiet room that we made of our own choosing. And so most often, writers can only depend on themselves to pep-talk their way through the difficult parts.

It’s no wonder writer’s tend to gather addictions that they can depend on when they are even let down by themselves.

This is not ideal, in the way that too much of any one thing is not good. It is especially not ideal if your crutch is something especially unhealthy and life-threatening.

But who am I kidding. What writer doesn’t secretly (or sometimes not-so-secretly) idealize writers from the past who’s brilliance was balanced by bad lifestyle habits such as intensely severe binge drinkers.

Though I have had liquor, my writing vice is coffee.

I discovered coffee my senior year of college – up until that point I had been a hardcore tea drinker. I had a ton of work to do, I was worrying about real-life that was rapidly approaching, and I discovered that coffee focused my mind when it was wont to wander. I could down a couple cups of coffee and write that thirty page essay plus a first-over revision in just a day.

Soon, like all vices, it got to the point that I was drinking coffee eight times a day. I spent all my college food allowance on cups of coffee between trips back and forth to the library.

That was a couple years ago, but I still drink coffee at least once a day. I drink it to make me happy, to make me focused, and most of all to help me write like a machine. If my younger self – a self that eschewed all coffee-drinkers – could complain to me now, I would only shake my head with a knowing smile. How little my younger self really knows.

Do you think vices are a good thing? Does their helpful-ness outweigh the unfortunate dependence they inevitably create?

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3 thoughts on “Vices with Brendan Behan: Day 13 of Project 365

  1. I am qualified to comment if the vice is substance abuse. Many great writers have engaged in substance abuse and whether it enhanced their creativity and output may have something to consider. But all substance abuse is ultimately destructive as it leads to physical and psychological addiction. The disease of being an alcoholic and addict is insidious. It is the only disease with a personality that tells us everything is OK as it is killing us and we believe it despite all evidence to the contrary. It has been suggested that Hemingway’s suicide was driven by his alcoholism which he realized had drained and extinguished his writing soul.

  2. Pingback: Writing, Other Jobs, & Russell Baker: Day 18 of Project 365 « Writer's Code

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