1. saint paul kept his pants on (or did he? I don’t really know the bible)
I was listening to NPR the other day and Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) was telling the interviewer about how he got throat cancer and had to give up drinking and smoking, which, he said, “were so intimately linked to writing for me. I’d sip coffee laced with bourbon while I wrote.”
So he was miserable and desperate and then he found Jesus and now he can write again, and is working on a screenplay about Saint Paul instead of about girls who show their boobs, I guess.
There but for the grace of overprotective parents and D.A.R.E. (seriously, that shit freaked me out) go I. Because I have a fairly addictive personality, and my writing routine seems to be intimately linked with my caffeine intake. In trying to avoid consuming overworked teacher/nightshift worker/first-year medical resident amounts of coffee, I’ve found myself sitting down with decaf a few times recently, and the result has been extremely lackluster. Like, to the point where I go home and coax AK into telling me she thinks I’m talented, which is not one of my more attractive behaviors.
Then I heard Joe Eszterhas and I confessed my new worry—that I might not just be untalented, but also an addict.
“And you already go to church, so I guess you’re out of luck. There’s no other way for your writing to be saved,” said AK. She didn’t seem quite as concerned as I was.
The next day I skipped caffeine in the morning and had a big Diet Coke while I wrote in the evening. Two buzzed hours later, I had a revised first chapter I was convinced finally hit the right tone.
Or at least, a new rule for myself: caffeine only while writing unless it’s a matter of falling asleep at the wheel somewhere on the 10. I like this idea because I’m also kind of addicted to making rules for myself. Hopefully I’ll be a high-functioning addict.
2. L.C. and OCD
Speaking of the writing process and how not-easy it is, I loved Andrea Seigel’s post about Lauren Conrad’s foray into both dress designing and YA book writing: http://andreaseigel.typepad.com/afternoon/2008/09/the-kids-are-alright.html. It sums up celebrity culture without being all bitter, which Andrea doesn’t have to be because she just scored a very lovely and well-deserved book deal.
And speaking of sort of fucked-up mental states, I’m also enjoying Myriam Gurba’s Dahlia Season, which is, in part, the story of a goth baby dyke with undiagnosed OCD. Some of my favorite passages are when she’s constantly smearing astringent on her face to avoid “catching” acne from her zitty friend, but of course it totally dries out her skin and makes it look way worse than a few pimples would.
That’s the weirdness of OCD that people who think it’s just about hating germs or checking locks don’t get: It’s an act of constant self-sabotage. For me it was an obsession with neatness that resulted in a meticulously organized closet and giant piles of junk in the middle of my room; and making so many attempts to get my handwriting perfect that every paper I turned in was heavy with mountains of Wite-Out.
Now I’m all about placing my mouth on the same part of the cup each time I take a sip of…coffee…so I don’t make multiple lip prints. You’d think this might distract from my writing, but nope, it’s all part of the magical, inelegant process.