You remember how Lord Byron was mad, bad and dangerous to know? Writers frequently fly close to the flame. We always say it’s because we need it for inspiration, but people don’t always believe us, and sometimes they’re right — it’s just self-destructive impulsiveness.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge did opium. Baudelaire swore by marijuana, which is also said to be Stephen King’s inspiration. Many, many writers drink to excess, including Jack Kerouac, who died of liver disease, and Ernest Hemingway, who may have been using alcohol to self-medicate for other ailments. There are entire web pages devoted to writers who drank themselves into disaster, or who were fans of pot.
But many more writers drink wisely. For example, E.B. White is on record as claiming to have never written a word while sober. Possibly you would rather keep martinis and Stuart Little in separate mental compartments, but White was true to his journalism roots, and newsmen famously keep liquor in a filing-cabinet drawer, locked. In my very first job it was one of my tasks to keep the stash of booze stocked! If you are able to use the sauce for inspiration only — and then sober up to actually do the writing — you may do all right. There are so many cases of walking the booze tightrope and its difficulties — the TV show Mad Men immediately comes to mind — I cannot list them here.
Writer friends have mentioned to me, however, the scourge of our modern day: the Internet. Between online games, captioned cat photos, Facebook, and obsessively checking one’s Amazon rankings, you can spend all day at your desk and never write a single word. And then there is research. Research is good! It helps you write good books! But not if it squeezes out all the actual writing. Once some years ago I stayed at a B&B in Athens. I met a man there who was writing a novel about the Trojan war, and was in Greece doing research. I was very impressed, until I learned that he had spent every summer here for the last seven years in this B&B doing research. He said that he was about ready to go spend some summers in Turkey, at the Hissarlik site. It has been a good couple decades now — I still haven’t seen that book. Obviously the research ate him alive.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Café.