The Artistic Imperative – Or why Writing’s better than Drinking

By now you know that writing is as essential to me as breathing, that it is one of the things that nourishes my spirit, that makes me who I am, that it brings me joy.

But having spent an almost blissful holiday immured in my book (as well as blogging a bit more often) with the return to work looming I have been reminded of something else.

I took to writing because it was the thing I was good at as a child and won my only school prize for. I have won a few other prizes/awards over the years but not enough to cover my mantelpiece (unlike a child of mine who has a room of prizes, as well as his newly won PhD scholarship to Oxford). It works out as one a decade, so due again, methinks. I took to writing because I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t do this…

And so because I couldn’t paint such pictures by hand I painted them with words and haven’t stopped. I can’t stop, which is the imperative. If I don’t write I am not me. I took two days off from the novel in the holidays, as part of my revision plan. One of those days I wrote not a thing. It felt very odd.

I write to say something, to explore ideas and characters. But what I enjoy is being in that other world, just like reading, except I have the control and the power over all that happens (she smirks, gleefully). I found that to be a great relief at stages of my life. My work is not a place of pleasure or joy, it is grinding and stressful, without needing to be which also makes it frustrating. How to escape? Drinking comes readily to mind as an escape from all sorts of unpleasantness in life: extreme sports, gym addiction, sofa surfing, other drugs fit the escape bill.

Writing is my great escape, my addiction if you like. I can’t live without it and it makes the real world bearable. I live with my characters, struggling with their problems. I fall asleep thinking about how a room in their house is laid-out, I give them a wardrobe of clothes, I decide what car they drive. I wonder why my journalist was killed and who killed her? I found this out towards the end of draft 3. I struggle with making my protagonist suffer more. She does now – her life has collapsed and she can’t get it back.

I go to sleep thinking about the book, the current aspect that needs working through for tomorrow’s writing. I wake thinking of the book, ready to write. I become a sort of ghost at home, eating with my family, washing up, walking the dog, but back to my little room and my iMac where the real adventures are taking place. This is happiness.

Tomorrow morning work will interfere with this process, taking up too much thinking space with inanities, something new and time-consuming to be concerned with. But my escape is always here. My little writer’s notebook ever present, my mind, unwilling to relinquish all space to work or the real world, will continue to imagine and create and so I will continue to write and escape, because I still can’t paint as I’d like and never will. That’s my youngest daughter’s province and I think she finds Art as comforting as I find writing.

What about you? What is your imperative, what drives you to create or helps you to escape? (Images courtesy Google Images)

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2 Responses to “The Artistic Imperative – Or why Writing’s better than Drinking”

  1. Barbara Knight Says:

    I know how you feel, and doesn’t it make life interesting? By the way it is possible to drink and write at the same time.

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