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so this is why writers are drunks!

December 7th, 2009

First off, two admissions:

1. I don’t drink. Not anymore. I would like to have some really glamorous drank-to-excess-now-12-step story (which I know is only glamorous if you DON’T actually have one) but the truth is, these days, if I drink, I go straight from sober to hungover without passing tipsy. And a migraine to boot.

2. I really, really, really hate the whole mystique of the tooorrrtuuurrred writer/artist/fuckwit who is so PAINED by his art that he must drink/drug/assholize and be generally self-destructive. This idea that you can’t be functional and creative is RETARDED and I fully reject it.

That said, right now, I’m getting why writers drink. Because if I had boozy proclivities, my cocktail hour would start at 5 p.m.—France time, which is about now here.

It’s not just that I’m have revision/follow-up book/trying to work in my truncated three-day workweek agita. Though there is that. That just makes me sprout more gray hair. It’s something else. And it’s HIS fault.

No, not my husband. My CHARACTER.

I know I’m being annoyingly coy about the next book and I’ll continue to be that way until my editor has read it and said “yep, it’s great, and we’ll fix what’s not great but this is next.” Also, when that happens, there will probably be some slowdown in the gray hair.

But herewith are two hints. Well, one I just gave you. My main character is a dude, which is new terrain for me. And he is troubled. For much of the book. And because he is troubled, I am troubled. I live in his head. I have lived in his head, on and off, for the better part of nine months now, and very intensely for three months of crazy, pull-the-book-apart-and-put-it-back together-again revising.

Recently, I let my sister read a draft and she said “I forgive you for being so dark. You’ve been channeling your character.”

She’s so right. It’s like I’m married to this person. And constantly worried about him. And he’s making me talk to myself like a crazy person. And he’s a bit tortured, even though I’m working to make him less tortured (god bless YA, we rarely leave our characters in the dark), he’s intense to be around. He’s driving me to drink. Except I don’t drink. So he’s just making me be in a Really Foul Mood. Which in turn makes my kids feel weird and act out, which really only makes me so much more of a joy to be around.

But, I do sort of get it a big now. Why all those sadsacks I always poo-poo’d for digging down in the darkness did just that. Because they had these dark, messed up characters who often stayed that way (their bad for not writing YA. Maybe Hemingway’s depression would’ve been more manageable with a few teen novels under his belt; and some Wellbutrin). Also, when you don’t have the distractions of family and meals and carpool and friends to pull you away from navel-gazing (or the booze bottle), then I think you’re probably really screwed.

It’s ironic given that my last character had her whole family die on her (actually, my last character was Macy, this hilariously clueless rich girl who had no soul and no clue and got both but alas, did not feel up to literary snuff and is now marooned on my hard drive). You’d think that living in Mia’s head would be hard but it wasn’t. Her circumstances were dark, but Mia was love, so being in her head was mostly total joy. No one dies in my current book (my god, it’s raining clues!) and yet, this character’s mind, it’s full of anger and guilt and pain that he has to feel his way clear of. With my help. And I don’t even get $150 for 50 minutes.

If I ever finish this book—and I’m currently waiting on my agent’s notes and then once I get through her suggestions I’ll have my editor’s to contend with—I am going to pair up with the lightest, purest-of-soul character in the world. Can one do a YA novel with a dog as the protagonist?

Oh, crap. Pass the Scotch.

  1. Oh Gail! Haha! I agree with you that writers can be creative and fully functional, but yeah I see your point. Also I can’t wait for you to hear the go-ahead and finally announce this book! I’m so excited!

  2. Hey Gayle, I love reading your writing adventures. I hate when artists use their own addictions as justification for their art. It’s a bit on the nose for me. But I totally understand the method route of inhabiting one’s character to channel them authentically on the page or screen. Having read two of your books, I know that all your characters are incredibly authentic and realistic. This will no doubt be the same for this shadowy male protagonist you are currently working on.

    Goodluck with your agent and editor!

  3. Amazing, I didn’t know about this topic until now. Thanx.

  4. So really, how does it feel to know that I love and admire you so much?

  5. I would love to read a book by you with a dog as the narrator :)

  6. Hi. You don’t know me. But I write, and you should know that. I understand the feeling that you’ll never finish a book; I get that a lot. In fact, I have yet to successfully complete a book. If you’re wondering why I’m commenting, it’s because your books look good. And that’s rare, so you should be flattered. Most of the times YA novels are such bores. Seriously. And since this is an old post and I’m a late commenter, adios!

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