The Boneyard: What’s Up With Creative People Having Substance Abuse Issues?

The Boneyard will feature the best of Daniel and Sean’s daily email chain twice a week. Yes, we broadened the definition of “best” to make this happen.

Daniel: You ever find you write better drunk? Or at least on some kind of high (caffeine, drugs, sex, etc.)? Some people who attend meetings about stuff like this say that they drove or did something better while under the influence. Is it the same for writers? Is having some sort of heightened or distorted sense of the world better for writing? And is that why so many writers have so many vices?

Sean: A lot of writers have drinking problems. I don't know if the drinking made them better writers. A lot of writers who let the drinking get out of control become worse. MacLean began to drink badly the last five or six years of his life and his work went down the drain. Writers who drink to have good work usually have awful personal lives. The better question is why do so many writers drink? Is it because so much is going on in their minds that they can’t control it in the real world?

Daniel: Great questions as well.

I think in some ways, it’s not being able to handle living in two different worlds. Maybe the world the writer is creating is better than their actual reality, or vice versa. Drinking becomes something of a crutch that eventually overcomes everything else. You're either trying to live in your created world or escape it. Reality measures up or it doesn't. 

And hey, sometimes writers try to force the muse, especially if they think their work is that important or they depend on it for everything. It's like athletes doing performance-enhancing drugs. If someone told you, you could take this and be really successful for a while, but there would be consequences down the line, would you do it?

This from the two guys who preface every podcast with what drink they're consuming.

Sean: In the world we create, we have control over thing. We know the perfect thing to say to the jerk, how to get the woman, and how to overcome our fears. The world is ours, but we can only visit that world, we're not allowed to live there. So once we leave that world we have to confront the real world. We hate the real world. That is why we write.  When you drink or take drugs you are pulled away from the real world. Getting high or drunk numbs you to the world, and allows you to feel free when you are not.  The best feeling in the world is the first few seconds of being high when the real world goes on pause the worry that fills your chest breaks part.

And yes, I would do it. However, regardless of what you do, you have to pay for it at a later date. You always have to pay the devil his due. If you have a great talent and you are able to live off that talent you are going to have to pay for it you may lose your privacy, or a loved one, or something.

Daniel: Damn I love everything you just said. Damn.

I’m repeating this line because I love it so much: "The best feeling in the world are the first few seconds of being high when the real world goes on pause the worry that fills your chest breaks part."

I posted “Why do you think some ‪‎writers‬ (and creative people in general) develop substance abuse issues?” to our social media networks. Here were two responses we got:

Matt: “When your life is entirely based on deadlines, you tend to try anything and everything you can to slow life down. Sadly, one of the major ways to do this is with substances - especially alcohol. Also, when you talk at your laptop all day, you might as well drink until it talks back to you.” 
Jeff: “Because they feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to deliver material worth retaining. Feeling as though you've failed to any extent in doing something you love can lead to poor decisions, insecurity, depression, and no one is invincible.”

Sean: Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead and I am heartbroken.

He was an amazing actor. I love “Boogie Nights.” He was amazing in that movie. The scene where they are recording the first sex scene and they focus on Hoffman's face and he almost starts to weep is so good.  “Mission Impossible 3? How great is he in that? He is such a great bad guy.  And now he’s dead.  

I'm just gonna miss him.

Daniel: I didn't see “MI:3”, but I have to now. He made every movie he was in better. Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous?” Fantastic. And that serves as maybe one of the most authentic writer movies of all time. “Twister?” Great playing a guy you wouldn't trust to do anything but chase after tornados with Helen Hunt. “Before The Devil Knows Your Dead,” “The Savages,” “Doubt.”

We talked about John Cazale last week, and while Hoffman didn't have that kind of awards run, he maybe had the modern day equivalent of being in a quality movie every time out. I need to go back and re-watch “Capote” because I watched it on a crappy television and the sound was really low. He was just great.

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