Writers and their poisons

March 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm (Writing Ranting)

I don’t care how good your writing is – if you have a drug habit it’s stupid and needs to be stopped.

But I do understand the situation – a little.

A few weeks ago I began writing a steampunk novel. It’s loads of fun, but also requires about 100 times more research than anything else I’ve ever written. The character arrives at a house – is it brick or wood or sandstone or mud? What are the curtains made of? Does her gentleman companion remove his hat? Where does he put it?

Even worse, I’ve used several real buildings including the 1853 Governor’s residence in Melbourne (which you’d think would be the historic Government House – but it wasn’t built yet*). It’s incredibly daunting – more daunting than unwritten books already are, considering the failure statistics I know about.

Usually when I write a first draft I write it at lightning speed – generally within three weeks, and once in three days. I’m deliberately trying not to do that – although for me it’s psychologically devastating when I write nothing at all for a whole day.

Yesterday I was really struggling, and I bought booze to boost my mojo. It helped tremendously. I wrote a quite long and complicated escape sequence, and then today I wrote another important scene. I’m now over the 20,000 word mark, and feeling good again – it’s probably about a third of the first draft.

I’ve used booze (and, more usually, huge amounts of chocolate) a few times, and so far it works remarkably well. On the one hand, it’s a little worrying. On the other, it’s hardly a habit (and even if it was, all it takes is a single drink to get me going).

A couple of you are writers, and others are students (or public servants). Have you ever turned to drink, and how did it work out for you?

*In 1853, it was an Italianate building in Toorak, which is now a Swedish church. I heart google.



  1. Ann said,

    What about those of us that just like to drink?

  2. Louise Curtis said,

    If it’s fun drinking, then it’s fun (and unless you’re bingeing, perfectly healthy). It’s only when you need alcohol – eg to get writing – that there’s an issue. And probably not for a while after that.


  3. Ben (Crispin) said,

    “I believe that everyone who sets about writing in earnest does his work, as a friend of mine phrased it, ON something – tea, or coffee, or tobacco.”

    – J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 1872

  4. Louise Curtis said,

    “You don’t need caffeine. You don’t need diet soda. You don’t need meth, heroin, video games, German poop-porn, an iPad, unicorn blood, the love of a good woman, a clean desk, probiotic yogurt, cat videos, Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, Tumblr, healthy self-esteem, double rainbows, a special pen, a lucky shirt, your blog, someone else’s blog, this blog, the word “blog.”

    The only thing you need is you, a semi-functioning brain, a story, and a way to tell it.” – Chuck Wendig, 2011 (from http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/03/08/lies-writers-tell/)


  5. Ben (Crispin) said,

    My quote is older, and therefore – by the rules of quotes – better.

  6. W said,

    My thesis was written on coke(a-cola), and my marking is best done with red wine.

  7. Louise Curtis said,

    W: Nice save on the coke, W.


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