The needle and the damage done…

936full-philip-seymour-hoffmanThere’s something about the passing of a master in a field you’ve been trained in that pierces the heart – not in the same way as family or friends of course – but out of a bit of knowledge about the journey, the work, the struggles, the process, the lifestyle. There are so many writers and actors who struggle with mental health, with addiction, with depression, statistically more than the general population. I saw it at grad school when Marcos Villatoro lectured on mental illness and creativity – the room was overflowing and nearly everyone either had bipolar or loved one with it or a related disorder. God knows, I’ve known a lot of addicts, some in my family. I am sad at the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. And terribly disheartened by the comments I’ve seen blaming him. All bets are off when opiates are in the picture. Rehab is no cure, not for alcohol, sure as hell not for heroin.  To say PSH was a talented actor is an understatement. Not everyone beats addiction. Not by a long shot. It’s not about willpower. Not solely. Do you think he wanted to leave his children? Doubt it. I’m sure he was looking forward to the next thing with them, the next event with his loved ones, friends, the next role…

There is so much about addiction we do not know. We do know people sometimes turn to drugs not just for kicks, but to cope with undiagnosed mental illness, biochemical imbalances, mysteries. Rehab does not always work. Not every junkie or drunk is a selfish bastard. Most are deeply wounded souls looking for balm, for relief. They may well behave like selfish bastards while under the influence. Oh yes. Still, they deserve our compassion and our help. Yes, they have to walk that road alone and every day is a choice. Just remember before you pick up that rock of condemnation, sometimes the monster… the disease… the addiction… wins. And the rest of us lose someone loved, someone talented, someone who probably would have stuck around if they could have found a way.


Routine and resistance

Don’t writers hate routine? Not if they want to get serious writing done. After time away, removed from the U.S., the internet, social media and my daily routine, I’m back into it. There’s a lot to be said for getting completely away. But getting back, getting over jetlag and catching up on sleep also reminded me of the importance of routine in writing.

How dedicated are you? Or, if you prefer, how important is writing to you? I know people with families who work full-time and get up at 3 or 4 in the morning in order to have a couple of quiet hours to write. It’s that important to them. I’ve found that, like exercise, it works for me to start writing as soon as I can in the morning. At one of his lectures at Antioch, Marcos Villatoro talked about the importance for him of going straight to his desk from his dream state, barely stopping along the way to pick up a cup of coffee. It’s not so vital to me to get to the blank page directly out of sleep, but it is important for me to get some writing done in the morning, in part to have a feeling of accomplishment.

There are two takes on resistance and both have helped my writer friends. Take a look at Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and the follow-up, Do the Work. The other is that resistance is not so much something to overcome as it is a necessary part of the process, like a caterpillar emerging from the cocoon. Does resistance make your writing better? More thoughts on that here.

One thing that helped to get back into my writing routine was editing. I prepared Dead Weight as an ebook and published it via Smashwords. It’s available on iTunes and will soon be up on Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, eDiesel, etc. (believe me, I’ll let you know when!) You can also buy it directly from Smashwords.

Discipline leads into the creative work. What’s your routine? What works best for you to get the writing done?