How Do You Enhance Your Writing & How Do You Reward Yourself After?
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." Hemingway said that and it was the best quote I could find from him on drinking that applied to this Hub. A lot of famous writers were also famous drunks and even crazy some would say, but that's another Hub all together, one that I may write next. What I want to talk about in this one is what, if anything, you do to enhance your writing and how you reward yourself when the job is done.
I'll start us off by talking about me (my least favourite topic). I've been writing since I was 12 years old. It was just shortly after my 22nd birthday that I came up with the genius idea to become a writer. I have no training when it comes to writing. I didn't go to college to learn, or attend writing seminars, where they teach you about pacing and structure, and all those other things I'm told you need to know to write a successful novel and more importantly, get paid to do it. Writing, much like everything else I know, was self-taught. If I want to learn how to build a doghouse, I buy some wood and learn as I go. It's probably a mixture of my arrogance and social fears that forces me to learn everything on my own, but it's who I've always been and I can only assume will be, until I'm no longer here.
So, I'm 22 years old and I get this idea to write a novel. Long story short, it takes me almost 3 years to complete it and it's a piece of crap when done. You'd think I would give up after I found out just how unreadable it actually was, but I didn't, I pressed on and have written 3 more novels and a book of short stories in the nearly 11 years since my pilot project. Although I've pretty much given up on my dream of seeing my fiction on the shelves in Chapters, I still write the occasional novel because I enjoy it.
'Where is he going with all of this?' is probably what you're asking yourself, and that’s a fair question. So here we go (as soon as I give a little more background). Even seeing how bad my first project was, I still wrote more and along the way have tried different things to see if I can improve my work. Not traditional things like taking a creative writing course or joining a writers group mind you; nothing like that, remember, I'm arrogant and socially fearful from time to time. No, I mean I tried things like writing drunk, under the influence, or any number of other things that didn't require me having to learn from someone else.
A few times, I tried writing when I was completely drunk. It wasn't a case of coming home from a night at the bar with friends and sitting down at the computer to give it a go; it was me sitting at the computer in the middle of the day with a bottle of Jack beside me. I tried it a half-dozen times, but nothing good came from it.
First of all, I couldn't concentrate on what I was writing; my mind keep wondering to something else, which is something that happens when I write sober also, but when I'm sober, I can manage it a little better. The words I did get down were jumbled and each paragraph had less and less to do with the previous one as I went on.
Second, the inspired words didn't flow out of me like I had expected. You always hear about these famous writers who were also famous drunks or drug abusers. Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson come to my mind first; Thompson wrote a novel called The Rum Diary for crying out loud. The title alone made me think he was drunk the entire time he wrote it, so I figured having a few drinks would improve my writing as well. Alas, nothing good came from it, it actually made the writing worse, which is saying a lot, because 90% of it was crap to begin with in my opinion (but to be fair, I'm a writer, I think everything I do is garbage).
I've tried writing while under the influence of other substances as well, nothing too extreme, but still better unsaid here, and they didn't help either. So I'm left wondering if I'm the only one who takes those romantic stories of famous writers sitting down in front of the typewriter with a half a pint of Smirnoff in them already, too seriously. Am I just foolish enough to believe that they were wasted when they composed their masterpieces? Were they actually sober while doing so and the idea that they were plastered is just a more fun way to think about it? Maybe I think that if alcohol was their magic potion, it could be mine also? That I could write the kind of things that would make me legendary if I had my own secret potion.
I'm older now; I know what works for me and what doesn't. I do something different for each book. I wore a promotional visor for the Adam Sandler movie, Click the entire time I was writing my second novel, and a toy gun in a holster for my third book; all in an attempt to help the story. Before writing one of my favourite short stories, I went out and bought a second-hand clock that I hung on the wall and then took down as soon as I the story was done.
I've been asked on more than one occasion, how I reward myself when I'm done writing something. I'd love to say that I go out and buy a new Porsche, but I don't make that kind of money. Certainly I could afford a Porsche keychain, but not the actual car. The picture at the top of this Hub is a picture of my "office". You can see a bottle of Jack Daniels on the shelf; that's my reward. I feel it staring at me the entire time I'm writing and I take a shot when I complete a piece of work. Maybe I'm just not destined to be one of those famous drunk writers, in fact, I know I'm not, but I'll keep on keeping-on because I enjoy it, and I'll down a shot when I'm done, because it makes me feel a kinship with those romantic writers of the past, who I used to want to be.
Let me know what little tricks you have that you feel enhance your writing; it doesn't have to be writing, it could be painting, photography or whatever else it is that you do (let's keep it PG though). It may be something simple, like closing the blinds or listening to Kenny G while you write, or maybe you're not like me and you do your finest work with a few belts of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in your stomach. Whatever it is, let me in on your secret, and tell me how you reward yourself when the job is done (again, PG).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go do a shot. Cheers.
Post Scriptum (thanks, Christian),
I had a massive cup of coffee before writing this and I was a little buzzed (and jittery) so if this winds up being the best thing I've ever written, I may have finally discovered my "magic potion".