How Does One Acquire a Deadly Vice?

I’ve finally figured out the root of my current writer’s block: I need to start smoking! I recently watched a movie about one of my writing heroes, Shirley Jackson, and that ol’ gal smoked like a chimney. As a matter of fact, it seems like any movie I’ve ever watched about writers (barring Beatrix Potter) shows the literary types puffing away as their brows furrow in the pain of tortured genius and angst of brilliant creation. So that must be it; I need to start smoking! Then I too will be great!

Oh, and I guess I need to start drinking, too. So many of the literary giants appeared to be constant guests on the slick liquor train–Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe–the list goes on and on. I can almost see myself tottering around in a filmy gown and marabou-lined slippers, a cigarette smoldering in one of those long black cigarette holders clenched between my teeth, a squat glass filled with amber scotch and ice sloshing around in my hand as I slur, in a golden-whiskey-throated growl, “Gimme a pen–I’ve just had a great idea for the next chapter.”

(Actually, now that I think about it, maybe that image is a little more Sunset Boulevard and less authorial. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille . . . .”)

Hold on a tic, though–all those writers I mentioned had miserable personal lives. Some of them committed suicide (a la Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Hemingway); some of them just drank themselves to death, and Shirley–well, unsurprisingly, a heart problem blamed on her weight and cigarette use got her in the end. 

Hmm . . . as Fagan sang in the movie Oliver: “I think I’d better think it out again.”

Because here’s some flies in the ointment. One: I’ve never smoked. I tried ONCE and ended up coughing and gasping for ten minutes, then using the cigarette like a sparkler to draw shapes in the dark sky with the glowing tip. I just don’t get it. (It burns us, Master!)

Fly number two: I’m not a big drinker either–I like a rum-n-Coke now and again, but mainly it’s the Coke I like. And I could n.e.v.e.r ingest scotch on a regular basis. Or even on a non-regular basis. Okay, not even one sip. (Again with the burning issue).

And buzzing, poop-dwelling vermin number three: Neither do I really fancy wandering into a rushing river with my pockets filled with stones or sticking my head in an oven. It’s a hard old world, to be sure, but I’m still curious enough to see what’s going to happen next. I’m not quite ready to check out just yet.

Dear me, my options have suddenly shrunk. Perhaps if I begin drinking Coca-Cola by the gallons and chewing gum, I may be able to at least achieve mediocrity in my writing. I might never get to “great,” but at least I’ll get to stick around and see my kids grow up to become geniuses. That seems better to me right now. But oh, what will all that Co-Cola do to my ever-expanding girth? And do I really want massive jaw muscles?

Patron Saint of Mediocrity

Writing is such a tricky business . . .

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