I collect quotes– and one of my favorites is from Ray Bradbury:
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
This piece of advice resonates with me because I think it’s a vital truth to any writer, to any artist. If you’re not drunk on what you’re working on, i.e. consumed, in love, in hate, in turmoil, in confusion, etc., you probably need to keep drinking, keep writing. Of course, I’m not serious about pounding down some beers and heading to the keyboard— although Hemingway and Poe might beg to differ with me (as would an earlier version of myself)— but what I’m saying here is that there needs to be some freedom, some sense of creative elation that needs to stick with you and keep you obsessed with your story, your poem or your novel.
People constantly ask me how I find time to write and my answer is always the same: “I don’t. I make time.” There’s no excuse as to why you can’t be writing if it’s something that you’re serious about. I work six jobs— three of which I travel to. I also work weird hours, my schedule is forever changing… And if I didn’t have two planners, I would never know where I was supposed to be. I write in-between phone calls and in-between appointments. I write in my head, my notebook or on my palms when I can’t find paper. When I’m on my lunch break– if I take one that day– I read poetry and novels and magazines. I keep up to date on the publishing industry and certain markets by signing up for alerts and having them sent by text or email to me the second something breaks.
I get up around 8 o’clock every morning– and when I get home is always a mystery. Sometimes I write in cafés after work, sometimes I write in a bar with a beer soothing my inner editor… But more than often, I’m at home at my writing desk– no matter how tired I am– putting in another 3-4 hours to write.
Do I have a social life? Yes. Are my friends made up primarily of other writers? Yes and no. But here’s my point: There’s a way to do everything you want to do and still find time to write. Some days you will have to make some sacrifices, but it’s all about maintaining a balance. Keep a steady schedule of work and play… And while sometimes the two can mix without disaster– much like liquor and beer– it’s better to keep them apart.
So yes… I’m a drunk, and I’m drunk every day. Drunk on words, on stories, on art. I take shots of poetry, drink pints of novels and I do it because I love it– because it’s what makes me happy. Sometimes people don’t understand my reality, that writing isn’t something I want to do– but something I have to do. And if there are bags under my eyes the next day, they’re filled with stories, fantasies and imagination. They are tattoos of nights spent creating, of days spent working day job after day job– so I can live my dream.
I won’t lie to you. Sometimes it’s difficult. In fact, a lot of times it’s difficult. But you can’t write without living, so take breaks, see the world, and make mistakes… Because the golden rule in writing– and in life– is that only conflict is interesting.
Yes, reality can destroy you. So like Bradbury said: “Stay drunk on writing.”
And when the hangover starts, you know it’s time to edit.