Half-light explosions of Addiction | Writing Nights

Half-light explosions of Addiction


I am an addict. 

For years I husbanded the pet hypothesis that all humans are addicts, each to different substances. People hate this hypothesis. They fight it. They argue. They claim they're special, they're not addicts. 


"Addicts lack self-control," they say.  "They’re weak."

I always win this argument.
 
I don't even point out the obvious things like coffee, or compliments. I bypass those. "If you think you're not an addict," I say, "then quit water for 10 days." 

No liquids for ten days. I think we both know what that kind of withdrawal looks like. If that takes too long, we can do air. If you're not addicted to oxygen, you just right now stop ingesting it. Do it. Shouldn't take much longer than 25 seconds to prove my point.

But I could never get addicted to the more mundane things. I tried cigarettes, I tried sugar, I tried caffeine. Gambling, sex, shopping. None of those move me. I like, but with the exception of sex, those just seem ridiculous as recreation. And without the right partner, sex even is just as ridiculous.
I began to think I was abnormal. Like all addicts, I couldn't recognize my addiction. I just wasn't looking at things from the proper perspective. Confirmation bias and self-interest are Addiction's god-parents after all.

Stephen King figured out that if he just put himself in the right place every day, his muse would know where to find him. My muse either doesn't give a damn, or doesn't keep appointments.

I chase my muse.

She requires it. I suddenly excuse myself from entertaining conversations. I barrel loudly out of movie theaters. I come flying out of the loo, toilet paper trailing me, grasping desperately for a pen, a pencil, a stick of charcoal, a torn bag of flour, any fucking thing. She whispers things over her shoulder while she's running out the door, or into a maze, or into a rocket ship where she can slam the door in my face, and gesture things I'm supposed to either transcribe or translate through the porthole before she blasts off into adventure.

My muse is demanding. She requires all sorts of obeisances, all sorts of tributes, tokens of fealty from me.

She must be some kind of debauched hedonist.

To see her I need to drink and fuck, and win pointless arguments, and scream loud, and long, and from my belly. I need to get high, but not the same sort of high consistently. Fast high, slow high, luxurious high, intellectual high. I need all the highs, plus Cheetos, plus cold grape jelly. I need to sing, I need to dance, I need to run, to move, I need to get the blood going, the juices flowing, the spirit moving, the brain lubricated.

My relationship with my muse is akin to a parent waiting one eye open, one ear perpetually cocked, because my daughter is perpetually on her first date, and even though she neither needs nor wants it I want to ensure she gets home safe. Are you there Margaret, it's me Chad. Sitting in the dark. 


In moments of clarity, I am aware that I am the daughter and my muse the parent. When my muse gets home she puts me to work. She's going to remind me that my vocabulary isn't good enough, and that I said I was going to finish reading that book by James Joyce, that everyone says is ultra-important, but no one has actually read (Ulysses) so I can get better at my craft. Then she’ll require that I pour a glass of Chandon, set fire to a chalice, turn down the lights. She says clarity isn't as good as the haze; the haze is what she wants. And then we make such sweet music together. A band of two we are–my muse and I.


I am enraptured. Even straight. Even without intoxicant. Maybe the other writers don't talk about it because they were brought up better than I was. They were taught you don't talk about sex. That isn't the done thing in polite society. Because that's what writing is for me. Literal agony and the ecstasy. There is a buildup, a need. Oh if only there were more appropriate words to express this need. Lust perhaps. This primal, clawing at my heart and lungs, this unnatural requirement that I be SATISFIED. This thirst. This grinding need. Lust way, way, far and away past the addled dreams of depravity. Such a need that faithful sailor's wives gone to port to call because sailor's ship has docked and the idiot may not come straightaway home, have never known. Such a need that death row prisoners escaped and now rampant in fantasy sorority pajama parties have never known.

And it builds and builds, and nothing slakes this thirst. Not drinking, not eating, not fucking, not sitting on my hand until it's numb and giving myself a stranger. Nothing satisfies. I am not the thirsty man in the desert. Forget him. I am the man who has choked on all the desert's sand, and having made my way to the ocean has drunk the salt water dry. And still...

I am still dissatisfied.

And this builds, and I write, and words come out, but they need to be right words, they need to describe the right scenes, they need to paint the picture in the same colors, to set the scenes in the same phantasmagoria as the lyrics in my mind. I must paint by pixie dust, mote by mote, splash by splash, sprinkle by sprinkle, and oh what an array of colors from which to choose just the right ones. I must choose from the palette of creation. I aim at verisimilitude; the abstract is nothing here. I think in black and white, and must recreate in Kodachrome.

And then it surges and crescendos. I chase thieves in the temple, where I find seven Spanish angels, and I watch them all fall, by the stairway to heaven and I climb, and I climb, and there is lightning, and I AM LIGHTNING, and then there are explosions, and I am explosions and clouds explode into fireworks, that condense into beautiful, screaming, purple rain. And then it is right. It is all out, and all out perfectly, and there is the added pleasure of seeing my ejaculate. Seeing it splattered all over the page. I read it, and what I described is what I saw, and what I saw is what is described, and all is well, and all will be well, and all manner of things must be well. There is crescendo but I cannot hear it. Thunder never intrudes on bliss. There is music but it is not music, one floats on rivers, one swims, one does not hear them. Who listens to the stream when they dance in it?

And I am at peace. Cognac and a cigarette would be wasted on this.

And I look at what I wrote.

Again.

And I read the words.

Again.

And then the urge. I must do this again. I want this again. Writing is not a vocation, it is not a calling, it is not a career. Addiction is what this is.

I swear this is why writers must not talk about it.


Image credit: Alex Jones and Tofros.com