Here’s an excerpt from this intriguing and insightful Q&A on Addiction Inbox with author James Brown:
“Q. Tom McGuane once referred to alcoholism as “the writer’s black lung disease.” Why do you think so many prominent writers have been addicted to alcohol or other drugs?
James Brown: The list of alcoholic writers is long: Hemingway, Kerouac, Eugene O’Neil, Dorothy Parker, Fitzgerald, Jean Rhys, Poe, Faulkner, and on and on. The only rationalization I can come up with, at least in regard to my own addiction, is spending long, long hours alone in a room, trapped in my own head, imagination, feelings, memories and thoughts, and when it’s time to resurface, to leave that room and return to the world that exists outside the sheltered perimeters of my mind, I’d want a drink to ease myself back into it. Without that drink, and the many that followed it, because not even from the beginning could I or did I want to stop after just one or two, it was stimuli overload. Lights seemed brighter. Noises louder. I was expected by my wife and children to just return to earth and join their lives when a big part of me was still locked up in that room.
But these are rationalizations. As the years passed, and the alcohol and drugs took greater hold of me, using and drinking was no longer about easing back into the world but eluding it altogether, where I didn’t have to feel or think. Did booze or drugs help me creatively? No. That’s myth, a lie, this notion of the tragic artist. Outside of Kerouac’s On The Road, which he wrote on speed, and Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which he purportedly completed in 21 days spun on coke, and maybe a few other writers, maybe a dozen other exceptions, generally speaking writing under the influence typically produces work that reflects an insensible, messed-up consciousness. That’s scribbling, not writing. Good writing requires clarity of mind and vision.”