I wonder sometimes why so many writers suffer from alcoholism and depression. Well, the question about alcoholism was answered by a New Yorker article a few years ago. It explained that most writers can write productively for only 4 hours a day and then what do you do with the rest of your day? You chill out from obsessive thoughts about the work with a drink in your hand. Luckily, I am in animation business, and my work days are about 12-14 hours long. By the time you’re done with the work, you just collapse near work table, no time to reach for a drink.
As to depression and suicidal thoughts – when I was an aspiring writer I noticed that writing requires certain personal traits. Writers observe and rarely participate. They observe the outside world and their inner reaction to it so that they could tell in the next story specific details about the state of human affairs. Even if a writer participates in a passionate political demonstration or in a nasty divorce or gets mugged on a street she/he still can’t overcome the habit to observe and note – the surroundings, the general feeling, the pain, the suffering and what not.
But just an observation is not interesting. One needs an attitude, tension, drama. Imagine a description like this: “A young, pretty woman entered the room, she was very kind person.”
Nice, but where’s the drama?
There is another way to write the same thing: “Amelia entered the room. Spending last 12 hours on polishing her nails had left her mentally and emotionally exhausted. Being so young and already so tired intensified the air of mystery about her.”
Some time ago in a small town in France a young acquaintance volunteered to show us the town. After the tour the guide went home and on our way back to the hotel my companion said:
– She was very wonderful, wasn’t she?
To which I replied:
– She was very wonderful indeed and if she flossed more often she would be pretty, too.
You’ll say, that’s nasty, and I agree with you. But if you see only flowers and don’t see the dirt which the flowers grow on you won’t make a great screenwriter, novel writer or even a decent animator.
I am not saying I am a good writer, I just mean that I have a disposition to observe and notice nasty stuff. It probably comes from the abuse I suffered in a high school from all the pretty people.
That disposition – sarcasm, irony, criticism, judgement – hits the other way too, back at you.
Remember the New Testament saying: “Do not judge others and you will not be judged”?
So, here’re I am at a party observing people. I notice fascinating and stupid thing they do – they all crowd around entrance/exit door, successfully blocking it. People who try to leave the party have to push through the crowd using their elbows, but not all the elbows are sharp enough. The people who try to enter the party stand in outside hallway gently murmuring: “Excuse me…” but that doesn’t get them far, till a big fat half drunk party crasher arrives from the elevator like Messenger from Heavens and shouts in an opera trained voice:
– Give the way, assholes!
Only then the crowd by the door steps aside, making the in-and-out traffic possible for slight 2 minutes. Then things return where they were.
The same kind of stupidity is observed at a bar where a slender, thirsty looking woman has to inch her way towards the bartender, who is obscured from her by a bunch of young rowdy drinkers standing around the bar. She has to have a good coordination to avoid all the possible spills on her fancy bright yellow silk dress and she manages the dangerous path to the bar with elegance and wit. She successfully reaches the bar, and makes her order. Now, you would think that the frustration of getting the drink would teach this person to step aside from the bar the moment the drink is in her hand. No. She get her drink and stands there transfixed, blocking the access to the bar to 20 other people behind her.
And then I notice myself standing in no one’s way ( I have a presence of mind to leave traffic on a highway unhindered) but I am wearing shoes that have seen a cobbler too many times and the last time it was about 2 years ago when he advised me to get new shoes:
– You already paid me $47 to fix these shoes. For the same amount you can get a brand new pair.
Which prompted me to stop all my visits to the cobbler shop or even to pass it by. The shoes had gone unattended.
And then I notice my hair. It’s not that it needs trimming. It was trimmed a couple of weeks ago for $20 at a neighborhood barber shop by a barber Zhanna of Uzbek origins whom I, at the very beginning of the hair trimming session, angered by asking about this famous Queens Uzbek community murder case a few years ago.
I didn’t mean to upset a person with scissors in her hands but shit sometimes happens when I open my mouth.
Zhanna got so pissed, she gave me a passionate speech about the case, while snipping away at my hair randomly. When she was done with the speech she pushed me out of the chair although it was clear the trimming was not quite nearly done.
So, at the party where every woman has bared her shoulders, chest and back, and each of their glittering dresses snug to their forms, and they had put on their bare manicured feet spiked high heel shoes that are very convenient to drill round holes in 1/4 inch sheetrock, I am standing in a turtleneck woolen sweater that is getting thin at elbows, sporting an Uzbek attack-style haircut and glamorous long distance walking shoes that have seen 84 miles too many.
– What an asshole, – I tell myself and leave the party.
The depression paralyzed the rest of my week. Not because of the haggard at the seams shoes, or lack of a dress or good haircut. But because once you venture into criticizing other people’s inadequacies, you are hit with your own right back at you.
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