Friday, 16 September 2011

The red wine, the cocaine and the muse walked into a bar...

The red wine, the cocaine and the muse walked into a bar, and they ordered a shot of inspiration to be washed down by a long, slow dose of brilliance.

No, it isn't a joke.

It's the tale of how many of the greatest pieces of art - paintings, songs, literature - have, in fact, been the product of a mind that was flying high on drugs.

     Kubla Khan - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
     By woman wailing for her demon-lover! (lines 12-16)

Utterly beautiful, and the product of an opium-inspired dream.

Jim Morrison - his struggle with drugs is well-known, and of course led to his premature death. Yet his lyrics and poetry are haunting and incredible, and I cannot help but wonder if he would have been able to craft such words if it weren't for the drugs and alcohol that eventually consumed him.

On a more personal note, my two great musical heroes, Ginger of the Wildhearts and Tyla of the Dogs D'Amour have both had well-publicised and tormented struggles with drugs and alcohol. Tyla in particular I've had the pleasure of speaking to on many occasions and doing photography for, and he has been very open about the demons that he battles, both in his lyrics and in person.

Both musicians have never hidden the depression that they struggled with, and of course, the chemical imbalances that such intense depression creates can be just as powerful for feeding the muse as anything synthetic.

What better examples can there possibly be of that than the cases of another inspiration of mine, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, or of the notoriously tormented Vincent van Gogh? The Starry Night adorns the wall of my little writing corner, and whenever I am struggling for inspiration, the briefest of glances towards it is often enough to spark something off.

Vincent, of course, committed suicide at the age of 37.

Now, though I would never dream of including myself in such lofty and brilliant company as those mentioned above, my muse and I have a very uneasy relationship. Sometimes, for many months on end, we are the very best of companions, and I can write 5000 words a day without no care or concern for anything else, riding on the greatest of highs as the words pour forth.

Other times, though, the muse won't come out to play.

I doubt very much that there's a writer around who hasn't experienced The Curse at some point. It arrives without warning, sneaking up on you whilst you're merrily involved in your story. It brutally cuts short the flow of words and creativity, leaving you instead with a gaping chasm of self-doubt and fear.

The problem is, though, that I know a sure-fire way of bringing my muse back to me. All I have to do is drink myself into oblivion. More often than not, a bottle or two of red wine is all it needs to spark off the ideas once more, and I can categorically state that the majority of my favourite phrases I've written have been whilst I've been under the influence. And if it doesn't come back instantly, I can guarantee than the night's sleep will bring with it a vivid and wild dream that will inspire a new tale even if it's doesn't help with the current one.

It's a dangerous and slippery slope, and I know that. It's a constant battle and balancing act between behaving responsibly and giving myself over to the urge to let my craft and muse consume me; and sometimes,  I can't do that alone. If my writing can only be at its best with the aid of a glass or two of red wine before I start, is that so much to pay? 

I haven't yet found the answer. What I do know, though, is that I can understand all too well why it is that so many of the artists that I admire succumbed to their demons.

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