On the Ideal Conditions for Writing

I think it is probably better to be awake, sober, and drug-free. I suspect those three conditions are probably helpful. But beyond that, I just have to feel like writing. I’m not one of these people who goes to the desk every single day and writes. I wait until my head gets filled with stuff and I have to get it out of my head.

I used to drink occasionally and take a little grass now and again back when I was real young. And I thought that I could write an awful lot better if I did. But it wasn’t very good. It seemed wonderful at the time. Marvelous. I’d look at it the next day and say, “What the hell was that all about?”   from Edward Albee’s “On Playwriting” inThe Best Writing on Writing(Story Press, 1994).

Personally, I’ve tried writing many ways: sober, drunk, joyful, depressed, with much time on my hands, with tight deadlines (mostly self-imposed and often missed or tossed aside), full of ideas, utterly depleted and blocked. What works for me in the end is the condition of willingness. I can write well when I’m willing to put in the time, effort, and determination. I do not believe in ”ideal conditions.” I do not believe in “ideal” anything. I trust in the power of words: spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten.

I hate sports metaphors (mostly because I suck at sports), but I can’t play if I don’t show up to the game. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to win, by whatever my definition of “winning” is in the moment, but mostly I want to play. Play with words. Play with life. Create. Live. In ideal conditions or not.  

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