“But that’s not an addiction,” I hear you say. “I just like to buy lots more books than I can ever hope to read, while simultaneously staying up to socially deplorable hours of the wee morning to try and finish whatever book I’m currently devouring.”
Now, I may not be a doctor, but that sure does sound like an addiction. And good for you for supporting it!
An addiction to books is absolutely pivotal in inspiring our souls. To partake in the stories and experiences of our fellow Man is a blessing that more people in this world should take full advantage of (can I get an “amen”?). And for writers especially, it is essential that we continue growing in our craft, and learning from our peers through reading their work. Yes, you read that correctly. Mary Shelley, William Faulkner, and Ta-Nehisi Coates are your peers.
You—the writer— need to read the work of your fellow writers to learn all you can about prose and cadence; about what’s been done to the point of insult and about what hasn’t been done before; about what is good and what is bad writing. Reading lots and lots of books is central to the development of a writer’s craft.
So who cares if you can’t leave a bookstore (or the anemic book selection in Target) without buying at least two books (“This one is a gift for someone else”, you say, but we all know you’ll conveniently forget to wrap it up and give it to the person)? Why is it anyone’s business if you shun social gatherings and human interaction to spend time in worlds of make-believe and fictional people? Why should anyone care if you develop impassioned, volatile opinions about events that have never happened, and seek to tell strangers on the bus ride to work all about the emotional pain you’ve just been through?
Own this addiction! And know you have our full support in continuing it.
Need a new read? Check out our Book Review section for new titles to feed your cravings.
Cause what sane individual who drops thousands of dollars on computer equipment and writing programmes doesn’t see the need to line their shelves and desk drawers with beautiful paper and countless fountain pens that will go unused and forgotten for the next three decades (or until the power goes out)?
I think this addiction, though often ending in a miasma of neglected journals and troves of dust gathering pens, is actually a very poignant one to engage in. Because, when you think about it, writing via ink and paper is the most time honoured method of capturing stories and imagination throughout human history. And yes, I can already hear one of y’all out there saying, “But Ash, most stories were passed on via oral tradition, long before the invention of parchment based writing”, or “But Ash, you’re forgetting stone carving, and the intricate knot systems developed by the ancient Incas, used to convey written language.” To that I say, shut up, and turn off the National Geographic channel; you’re neglecting your writing duties in favor of useless knowledge.
Who doesn’t envision Edgar Allan Poe hunched over his writing desk in the dark of a gloomy room, with the paltry glow of a pale candle being the only light offered for him to write “The Pit and the Pendulum”? And who doesn’t picture Emily Dickenson crafting ink stained page after ink stained page of beautifully observant insights into nature and the human experience? And could we ever hope to be as stoic and resolute as Frederick Douglas penning his life changing autobiography with a simple quill and ink well?
There is an aspect to our hereditary as writers; an unexplainable, but unifying gravity towards the tools of our trade. Our literary forefathers carved legends across countless pages of parchment. It stands to reason that we should want to emulate that same power and prowess. So gather away, you human equivalents of squirrels. The staff of DPW salutes your need for more tastefully printed and hand bound journals.
Plus, have you seen how freaking awesome the linen pressed stationery is at Barnes and Noble? Oh! -or the gilded parchments and German glass blown quills that line the shelves at Paper Source? OMG I want it all!
3. World/People Watching
It’s hard to not perceive this one as a little bit creepy (if you’re not a writer). Picture it: a lone person, sitting in a crowded area, often looking as if they’d just gotten out of bed, or woken from a three day bender, staring at the world around them and lingering—often longer than is polite (or legal)—on individuals who have piqued their curiosity.
Not a good image to have attached to yourself.
Admittedly, this is one of the more tricky addictions to manage, but so long as you follow a few rules, you should be fine.
- Make sure you’re freshly showered, and dressed in clean clothes that match and are appropriate for the season.
- Keep a laptop/tablet, or a very thick boring looking book open and in front of you at all times (this ellicits sympathy on anyone wondering why you’re staring at them; “Oh, well I guess I’d space out too, if I were reading a book that boring.”).
- Headphones in your ears and plugged into something—even if it’s not playing music—will also detract any concerned individuals from approaching you.
- Try not to sit next to a Stalker-Mobile style of vehicle.
Observing the world and the large group of people (who aren’t socially awkward) within it can provide a lot of insight into how to write a scene, or spurn some inspiration into what a character may look or behave like. Or, maybe the act of watching the world has nothing to do with setting or character, but instead reveals an overall tone that you wish to convey with your words. Whatever your goal, certainly pursue it.
But please, try not to be too creepy.
This is the one that should come easiest, and will also be the most difficult to control.
A writer’s mind is one that naturally wonders (and wanders). It thinks up wondrous “what ifs” and follows endless threads of thought back through the cosmos of our imagination, tricking itself into thinking it will find an origin rooted in infinity. With blank stares, furrowed brows, tapping fingers, and restless feet, writers journey deep into the forays of the miracle of the human mind in pursuit of inspiration, and that idea that we all know is “The One”.
But as important as this particular addiction is, do be wary of a propensity for increased indulgence. The tendency to spend more and more time daydreaming or questioning the world rather than transcribing those visions to a corporeal form can quickly spiral into an out of control cycle. We at DPW have seen it happen before: pens dried out, lying in journals that have been forgotten—buried—under bills and take-out boxes; word processors with only one incomplete sentence glowing on a sheet of white digital paper; promises to “get back to writing, right after I figure this part out” which are always broken.
It’s a harrowing addiction for the writer to navigate, but this also affects others.
It’s a terrifying ordeal for those in direct contact with the writer. Often, this circle of loved ones is unsure of how best to approach a writer who is engaging in uncontrollable daydreaming, and this can lead to feelings of guilt or misplaced feelings of resentment within what should be a supportive group of people.
The best advice we can give to those who know a writer who is struggling with an unhealthy addiction to uncontrollable daydreaming is this: talk to them; invite them to play a game of touch football or kickball or to play some Call of Duty. Get them involved in an activity that requires them to pay attention to the world in front of them. Then, when they are back in the present—when their creative souls have rejoined their primitive Earthly bodies—say this simple statement, “I cannot wait to read this project you’ve been working on. I’m really excited about it.”
This sort of encouragement has shown a large degree of success in pushing the writer towards writing, but in a safe and non-threatening way. It comes across—to the writer—as if they were the ones to conceive of the idea to write down their daydreams, and this is vital in propagating action within the writer towards actually getting back to writing. It may sound ridiculous, but it certainly worked in Inception (and a dude’s wife even died because of it), so it’s bound to work on an actual non-paid-actor person.
If a writer you know is having difficulty escaping their addiction to daydreaming, and you’re concerned about the lack of output of that writer, we at DPW urge you to please seek professional help. But not from us. Our lawyer already has enough back blow to deal with from the shit we do.
This is the most important point; hence me adding it at the end. So listen up! I’m only saying this once.
Get a rival.
Every great hero story has one; a rivalry that could only end with one of the strongest friendships in the world (or ultimate betrayal and the death of a main character, but I’m trying to look on the brightside with this one). Sasuke and Naruto. Gary and Ash. Goku and Vegeta (yes, I’ve been reading a lot of manga)! The best of the hero story arcs throughout the foray of time features one of these gut wrenching, knuckle biting rivalries at some point; and there’s a good chance that many of you are writing something along that line.
But this point isn’t about writing, or reading it.
This is about living it. And becoming completely addicted to it.
That’s right. We here at Drunken Pen Writing want you to find and maintain a writer rivalry with a living, breathing peer. We want feelings of envy, competition, and arrogance to predominate every social aspect of your writing life (well, that does seem like a little much, but let’s roll with this allegory for the sake of emphasis).
“But Ash—you artful epitome of the emotionally sensitive and ruggedly masculine man,” you may be wondering, “why do you want us to hate and get into fights with our fellow writers? Isn’t friendship and unity a better motivating factor in furthering our craft and establishing ourselves within the publishing community?”
Well, imaginary admirer that I just made up to boost my self-esteem and further this point, allow me to address your concerns in a well thought out and respectfully succinct manner.
No, friendship will not act as a way of helping you better your craft. That’s like a wife asking her husband if she looks likes she’s gained weight; the guy is the worst possible choice for an honest opinion in this scenario. And this is why:
- He loves his wife (presumably) and no one who cares about another person wants to witness their words inflicting emotional pain upon the other person.
- He’s going to be biased. It’s no lie that we, as humans, are amazingly gifted at not seeing the faults in our friends and loved ones. It’s not that we’re lying to ourselves about how annoying it is to listen to our friend Bruce eat cereal, or how Tabitha’s passive nasal breathing sounds like a jet engine about to take off. Once you notice those things, it’s damn near impossible to ignore them. Nah, it’s more that the husband in the original example honestly doesn’t see any potential weight gained by his darling bride.
- He’s going to lie. Now this ties back into point number one, but the difference is that the first point is all about the internal tendencies of the husband. This point is about the action. The husband is not going to tell his wife that she’s gained weight in an outright manner. At worst, he’s going to have actually noticed it (nullifying point two), but he’s going to insist that he doesn’t see any change. That is called a lie. At best, the husband is going to have noticed the weight gain (also nullifying point two), but being a caring and loving individual, he’s going to seek to put it in a way that offers no actual honest answer to her question, and yet makes it sound like he’s said something of consequence to alleviate her need for an answer. This is what I call the “Politician Move”, and like anything to do with politicians opening their mouths, this is also a lie.
Look, to put it simply: friends suck. At least when you’re seeking to improve the quality of your writing. We see it all the time on social media: a bunch of members of the “#writingcommunity” all engaging in a cyberspace circle jerk, telling each other how amazing their self-edited, first draft story is, and how “literally everyone needs to read this.”
This is a horrible addiction to have, and I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t take much investigation to see that an overwhelming majority of these types of writers are either stagnated in their writing potential, or that they weren’t cut out for this life, but no one is nutting up and telling them, “Dude. This sucks. I think you should stop.” There are so many people hooked to the drug of empty, meaningless compliments and undeserved applause for subpar work, and it’s doing no one any favors. Remember the bad addictions I listed in the intro? Chuck this one right next to meth, cause this one turns good people into disgusting, morally bankrupt monsters suffering from delusions of grandeur.
Writers don’t need friends when they’re looking to improve. Writers need a Simon Cowell to roll their eyes and tell them in a posh accent that “this blows”; they need a Gordon Ramsay to scream in their face and order the writer to throw their story “in the fucking bin”; they need an R. Lee Ermey (God rest his soul) to get in their face and talk down at them and tell them they’ll never be as good as Ermey is, they’ll never achieve what he’s achieved. Because it’s only through the brutal honesty of a rival and a sustained level of competition—the need to do better and achieve more than the other person does—that a writer can truly further themselves.
Rivals are also the only ones you can trust to truly compliment you; like in the way that it actually means something, ie. Krillin from DBZ dancing around and telling Goku that he thinks he’s the greatest thing since being able to breathe effectively without a nose means jack shit compared to Vegeta shrugging and saying, “Meh. It’s alright.”
So, find a rival. Stoke that spirit of competition. Find someone who will be brutally honest and unforgiving towards your work, and return the favour in kind. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent and trapped in one of the infinite number of “positivity-only” circle jerks that exist in the literary community. Else, the world will never know your name, and your stories won’t grow stronger.
If you found this article helpful, check out some of these!
A discussion on how to improve your writing as well as your mental and physical health as a writer.
We’ve all dealt with periods of poor productivity, mainly writer’s block. Well, here are a few quick tips to help keep that pesky writer’s block at bay.
An unexpected downside to being a writer are the times when you struggle with focus. What is the best way to handle focus issues? Is there a way to fix the problem?