Writing Under the Influence

WHAT’S PLAYING: Glee Cast “Rumour Has It/Someone Like You”

My boss played a cruel trick on me yesterday morning.

Monday night, I went out with some friends to celebrate the completion of my first draft. I rarely drink, but when I do, it’s usually to excess. The liquor was flowing freely all night long, and I didn’t get home until 4 AM. Two and a half hours later, I got a call from my boss, demanding to know where I was and why I wasn’t at work.  

 

“What day is it?”

“It’s Wednesday,” he replied.

“I thought it was Tuesday,” I said, fumbling for my phone to check the date.

“No, it’s Wednesday. You were supposed to be here an hour ago.”

By this time, I was about ready to cry. Sure that I had lost an entire day to a drunken stupor, I started babbling and apologizing. (Give me a break. It was 6:30 in the morning, and I was still half in the bag.)

After letting me stew for a couple more minutes, my boss finally admitted that he was kidding and asked if I could work that day. I calmly explained that I wasn’t fit for duty, called him a dickhead, and slammed down the phone.

Everyone in the Chemistry Department thought it was hilarious.

I didn’t.

My job has a zero tolerance drug policy for obvious reasons, but I can have a drink every now and then as long as it’s not within five hours of having to report to work. Still, I try to keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum.

More than anything, I hate losing control. Not much in this world falls under my purview, but I can keep a tight rein on my behavior. If I’m going to screw something up, I want it to be because I screwed up. Not because I was too wasted to know what I was doing.

 

I know a lot of writers – some of them very successful – abuse alcohol and drugs. I know many people drink to deal with pain. Life hasn’t been exactly kind to me either, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there isn’t enough tequila on the planet to make my pain go away. Day inevitably follows night and I’m left bearing the same burden…plus a headache. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. I just have to do what works for me, and that means keeping my head.

Many elements in writing – character arcs, pacing, prose, etc. – require precise and delicate handling. How can I control all that if I can’t even control myself?

Doubtless part of this discomfort stems from my Type A personality, but I think it’s more than that. Chemistry and writing both require a certain amount of cerebral dexterity, and without them, I wouldn’t be able to support myself. I’m not very athletic. I can’t sing or act or dance worth a damn. I’m too shy to try stand up comedy. Let’s face it, being smart is pretty much all I have going for me.

That and a dickhead for a boss.

2 comments on “Writing Under the Influence

  1. Wow, dick move, for real. But yeah, what worked for Hunter S Thompson probably won’t work for everybody (anybody). Though a lot of writers didn’t drink for their inspiration, but rather block out some of the things that tormented them, but also made them very good writers in their own way

    • justjacqui2 says:

      I agree. Some of my favorite books were written while their authors were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I learned the hard way that what worked for them, doesn’t work for me. In much the same way that I can’t write well without an outline, I can’t write well while under the influence. Not a judgment, just an observation.

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