What's Important 8: Miles Iz Ded

Note: A few years ago I wrote a series of pieces on "What's Important." They got a decent amount of traffic on my old blog, so I've decided to re-run them on my new site.

I'm a good writer.

I say that in part because I know that the vast majority of the people on this earth have a hard time stringing together enough words to make a complete sentence, let alone multiple sentences to make a paragraph.  Being able to write adequately is a lost art.

I also say that in part because these days anyone obsessed with the sexual proclivities of the Star Trek: the Next Generation crew can publish some slash fiction and call themselves a writer.  And while I have no problem at all with living out your sexual fantasies on the written page, I feel pretty confident in saying that my work is better.

I've had enough unbiased (and plenty of biased) people tell me I can write.  Push comes to shove, I'm willing to claim that I'm a good writer.  But being good really isn't enough.

I can be a great writer.  I've seen it.

Deep down inside of me there is a great writer and he really, really doesn't want to come out.  I suppose he might actually be trapped, which is a whole other thing to consider, because in one metaphor he is hiding and in another he's a prisoner.  I think it's probably a bit of each.

Sitting down to write for me is hard because I am easily distracted, easily frustrated, and my confidence is mercurial.  None of those things are true once I have alcohol in my system.

Once I've had some whiskey, the world around me dulls.  I become more relaxed, more willing to follow wherever the writing takes me.  I am supremely confident.

The locks release, the doors open, and out comes the great writer.

The hardest part of this process (well, I'll get to the others in a minute) is that I'm dealing with a pretty small window.  He doesn't come out until I've had a certain amount to drink, but inspired tipsy guy soon leads to unmotivated drunk guy, and then all is lost.

I can't go on like this, obviously.

It's funny, because given the frequency with which I drink, it would be easy to suggest that I have a problem

.  But here's the strange thing: these days, I basically only drink when I write.  Yes, I still often need alcohol to be social, but I'm finding that more and more lately I have no problems interacting with other humans completely stone cold sober.  Granted, there are a lot of factors at play there (like how much interaction I've had recently and who the people are), but alcohol is no longer essential for me to be social.

It still is for my writing.

That's probably a little hyperbolic.  I'm writing this totally sober, although I'll admit that I have a glass of Buffalo Trace bourbon sitting on the desk.  I do all of my editing stone cold sober.  I wrote most of "Master of the House" without a drop to drink (that's probably hyperbole, too), at least the initial draft.  Some stories are easier than others.  But "Pray" is soaked in whiskey.  So is "Unrequited."

Here's the thing: great writers write every day, and great writers don't need anything other than themselves to be great writers.  They just sit down and do it.  That's the real lesson here: that great writer within me that needs alcohol to come out might be crazy talented, but he's not very diligent, and I need that just as much as I need him.

Besides, once Nicole and I have kids, I don't know how I'll be able to keep this up.

Writing sober: the next frontier.

Baby steps.

Miles Iz Ded by the Afghan Whigs