But the hardest of hard things [about being a writer] might exist at a more fundamental level. Let’s say you settle for an Emily Dickinson existence. You like your town. There are no earthquakes. You have a three block commute that you walk to work. You write everyday as a meditation on language and existence. Well, even then you have to negotiate the live-work balance. How do you turn off the part of you that’s always in search of some new turn of phrase, wording, or insight? In the literary arts, we’re entangled in our material. A word is used in some pedestrian yet essential way in the afternoon, but turn a corner and suddenly it’s working aesthetically in a radically different manner. An actor can (in theory) put down her script, step off the stage and make the transition into her non-acting self, but writers are always working and living in or around language. The live/work balance becomes blurred. I suspect there has been such a gaggle of literary drunks throughout history because alcohol turns off that hyperawareness of words. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if research turns up a new picture of Emily wherein she’s hammered most of the time and when she referred to Death she really was writing about the Bottle.
- Kevin Spenst, in interview with Sachiko Murikami over on her blog The Hardest Thing About Being a Writer. You can read the whole thing here.