I use to romanticize that when a person became an author, some fantastical character similar to Santa Clause came down to the artist’s home, bequeathing them with a gloomy black suit as well as a life supply of whiskey and cigarettes. Now I know this wasn’t spot on, but it helped me make sense of my favorite classical authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Walter de la Mare and Oscar Wilde, who were some of the more melancholy novelists of their time. And yes, while it’s true that not every gothic author was an alcoholic, solitary introvert or ex-convict (Mary Shelly and Robert L. Stevenson to name a few), there does seem to be a slew of these social deviants throughout literature’s timeline.
However, as much as one might fantasize about emulating the lifestyle of their favorite unusual authors, may I suggest that you reconsider? Because while it might seem exciting to live in the footsteps of some of the more bizarre penmen, I’m a firm believer that good writing comes from good living. Yes, sometimes, we as writers might feel the need to wallow in self pity, tiptoe along the darkest alleyways or drink until our livers turn green, but it doesn’t necessarily make us more creative. No, being a good writer comes from within. It’s constant practice, well thought ideas and an unwavering spirit. It’s the ability to reside in, cope with and adapt to the modern writing world. To quote the Sage of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson, “nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
I’ve been known to “indulge” in the occasional drink…or ten, and to be honest, sometimes Hemmingway’s philosophy, “write drunk; edit sober”, does help get the words on paper. Then again, I’ve written the majority of my best works while just being content and clear minded. Get me in my favorite chair next to the window with a steaming cup of coffee after eating my wife’s quesadilla casserole and I’m ready to go. Now put my snoozing dog at my feet, add a rainstorm with some Tom Waits gently playing in the background and prepare for a masterpiece.
Almost all of us have that special place or moment. That perfect hiccup in time when nothing seems imperfect about the world. It comes with good living. Work hard, stay healthy, remain kind to those you love and more of these “perfect hiccups” will arise. Because while dyeing your hair black, skipping through graveyards and drinking like a fish might help you get in the mood for whatever project you may be working on, just being happy with yourself will always prove ten times better. Joy isn’t always something just handed out freely. Often, it comes from the person’s own measures.