Is there such a thing as Writer’s Anonymous?

There wasn’t a lot left – a couple of drops, really. But it called to me and awakened something inside of me. Not really lust, not really gluttony, but more of a memory than anything else. It was a drop of liquid that held a vision of a whole other life; a life spent spiraling and searching for an ethereal reality that couldn’t exist. Still, that vision of life was there, dancing in those few drops: A version of a life I thought I wanted.

It was a romantic idea, really. Hemingway did it; Steinbeck did it. I could go on but the image of the tortured writer spending endless and countless days scribbling thousands of unintelligible words into tattered and worn notebooks until he had another Old Man and the Sea or another Grapes of Wrath was a vision of a perfect life to me. Only I wasn’t like those glorified scribblers. If I spent an afternoon hunched over a bar sipping tequila, my pen might move from time to time, but then, the next day, I’d review my previous day’s work and see that it may as well have been written in Aramaic. There was no way to know what the hell I wrote. Maybe I wasn’t really writing anything; maybe I was just moving a pen in various lines across notebook pages.

But damn, I wanted to be a tortured writer on the hunt for the perfect set of words that would become my legacy. I wanted so badly to be just like those writers who lived their lives on the edge of reality and lunacy. It was a lust greater than any man could have. I figured that living on that edge would make my writing life somehow more real.

So when I saw those couple of drops of tequila lingering in a mostly empty shot glass, I saw that distorted reflection of who I thought I wanted to be and realized that the edge of sanity I sought wasn’t all that great a place to live. Alcohol may bring lunacy, but it doesn’t help with writing. I saw in those drops that attempting a writing life, in and of itself, creates lunacy; it simply isn’t easy parsing through millions of thoughts with a net that only holds a hundred or so at a time. It’s like fishing for plankton with a net suited for landing giant catfish. But what the hell, I keep at it, which is the lunacy and irrationality of the writer.

I remember this one time, after spending hours at a little dive, I scribbled enough words to fill more than 20 pages of a notebook. At some point, I placed the notebook down somewhere and went to take a leak. When I was done, I searched the joint for my damn notebook – but it disappeared. It was gone and I wasn’t even drunk. I threw back, MAYBE, two or three shots over the course of an entire afternoon, but somehow, that notebook went threw some notebook-rapture-vortex and entered into another dimension of sight and sound. Wherever it went, though, I wasn’t there. I was more than angry about losing that notebook; I drove home in complete grief over the loss.

This thing called a writing life is a bad habit, alcohol or no alcohol. I can’t quit – hell, I’m not even sure I want to leave it. Writing transports me – in my own parlance: I am a compulsive writer. Maybe I should start a “writer’s anonymous” group. “Hi,” I’d say at the start of my testimony. “My name is Juan and I am a goddamned writer.”

The group would chorus back to me, “Hi Juan!”

The problem was never the alcohol. The problem, if there’s one, is that I write because I have no other choice. When I’m sitting in my rocking chair wondering if the grandkids will ever visit me, I’m certain that if I can still hold a stupid pen, I’ll write a poem or a verse about how much old age sucks. I’m certain that I’ll still be fishing for plankton in my mind, even if I’m senile, I’ll be grasping at some great collection of words that I won’t fully capture.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe my WA 12 step group will cure of my writing addiction. I don’t drink or drug. Don’t gamble much. Writing is my only remaining vice. I wonder if my writing glass will ever be down to 2 drops. On second thought, no I don’t. My name is Juan and I am a goddamned writer.


Really, we’re all writers and poets…


“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.” — John Updike

I couldn’t disagree with Mr. Updike more that most of our lives are mundane and dull.  The real truth (from my perspective) is that our lives are anything but mundane and dull.  We may not realize it, but each day we process millions of pieces of information.  If there is a mundane and dull aspect to life, it’s a result of not capturing enough of the information with which we come into contact.

One of the things I’m always hearing is that boredom is a huge relapse trigger.  To that, I always say, “Only boring people get bored.”  See, I believe that all of humanity owns an innate need and capacity to create.  We don’t need to be rich or famous, but we do need to create as a way to express the simple fact that we are here and that we matter.  It almost seems to me that people live their lives within a box that they build for themselves.  All kinds of life happens around that box, but it seems like some people only see, touch, hear, taste, and smell that which is in their box.   They accept that the box they’ve created for themselves is all that they can experience in this lifetime.

I also disagree with Mr. Updike that it’s up to writers to make life interesting.  Life IS interesting.  It’s just that people’s attention span has dwindled so much that what counts as interesting involves  a lot of noise or flash.  A simple sunrise hardly holds anyone’s attention anymore, but I challenge any Vine video creator to come up with something half as layered and improvised as something that happens differently every day.  If we need someone else to make our lives interesting, maybe we should look at the box in which we live and attempt to create a life that can’t be easily contained in a box.

And, to me, there’s no way we’re past the age of heroes.  No way.  If anything, we need to become the heroes of our own lives.  There are plenty of villains, but if we work hard enough, we can overwhelm their treachery and become heroes with even the simplest acts.  We can love each other and treat each other with respect and compassion; those two simple acts can change the world and stem the tide of darkness that seems to box in our world.

Really, we’re all writers and poets.  We just need to find the right pens and allow ourselves to see past the walls of the boxes we create for ourselves.