Four years ago, I wrote one of my “How To Be Creative” chapters, “Dying Young is Overrated”.
Andreas Duess, a Toronto-based advertising creative, left a comment there I liked so much, I never forgot it:
I used to live in Hoxton [East London], when Hoxton was still full of artists, rather than bankers. Studios, workshops, warehouses. We used to operate rooftop cinemas, the pubs stayed open all night. The ‘Blue Note’ had just opened on Hoxton Square. It was cool, it was creative, it was happening. It was awash with coke, speed and pills.
Taking drugs was the normal thing to do, not the exception.
Now, ten years later, there are two kind of people who were part of that circle: The ones who jumped off that train. They now run hotels, live in France, own start-ups, work for MTV, do interesting stuff.
And there’s the other ones. The ones that are still alive, and many are not, are busy drooling in a forgotten pub in the East End. Dreaming of better days. Royalty payments have dried up, so has the talent. Anyone remembers the rabbit scene from ‘Snatch’? Like that, ‘proper fucked’.
Drugs don’t give you consciousness expansion. Drugs turn you into a self obsessed ranter, full of conviction on the outside and full of hot air on the inside.
Actually, my fellow-artist buddy, John T Unger also left a great comment there. This was quite a while before we actually became friends:
Hemingway had a great article he wrote for the Toronto Star on the same subject…He admonished American tourists not to bother making trips to Montparnasse to drink with the great artists of the day, because they would all be in the studio painting, rather than wasting their time at the bar. He went on to say that the tourist would not lack the company of plenty of B list wannabes if he was thirsty, with whom he could sit elbow to elbow and bitch endlessly about how famous he wasn’t and how unfair it all was. The article was funny, mean and true (like some other people we know, eh, Hugh?).
Yeah, I’m spending a lot of time these last couple of days, sifting through old material. I’m working on a new project, and some of the old stuff should come in handy. Groovy.
[Pimp Central:] Have you checked out John T Unger’s “Great Bowls of Fire” sculptures? They utterly rock. Oh, and he designs websites.
That’s a good thing to hear while sitting on the underside of 30. It helps to know that there’s a proper balance and that it doesn’t make one a freak to work late into a night. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve heard “come on, it’s after 6, put the computer/notebook away and relax a little.”
Frankly, I’d rather be sitting at the bar working on my computer or home sewing/creating/working then out “partying” with all the 80 hour/week bank escapees. It helps to have some positive reinforcement on that.
Pity Hemingway didn’t take his own advice and eventually blew his brains out. But I guess with serious talent comes the angst.
So true. It is good, this re-visiting of the How to be Creative material. I re-read it recently. Still so good. So your timing in further espousing is well-timed for me.
Pretty sure Hemingway followed a strict schedule as a working writer, drank a lot too. Guess it is possible to do both but not for many.
Hemingway was killed by his psychiatrist. He was duped into getting electroshock which destroyed his memory. That was what Hemingway wrote out of and when that was go so were his stories.
Wow, great comments, and it’s really incredible how relevant Hemingway’s piece is to today. I used to think that hanging out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn would expose me to a lot of great upcoming artists. All I met were a bunch of chronically drunk and partying posers and almost became one myself.
Thought i’d interject an Alan Watts quote regarding drugs, creativity and all… “it’s like talking to someone on the tele, once you get the message, hang up.”
Thanks for the pimpage!
I’ve been digging your return to the HtbC maerial… It was great then, still is, and it’s nice to see some updates.
Funny though, after about 20 years of 18 hour days with no vacations or weekends, I’m beginning to question my artistic work ethic. At least a bit…
Last year I was engaged and this year I’m single again, in large part because she couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that, yeah, sometimes I have to disappear into the studio for days at a time. She wanted to know why I couldn’t at least be home for dinner every day. Realistically, what I do just ain’t ever gonna be 9 to 5, and it’s probably never going to fit within a 40 hour week either… When I get a new idea, I can’t help just going balls to wall night and day until it’s out there and earning its keep.
But on the other hand, I’m starting to think that it would be nice to have a bit of a life. What good is being rich and famous if the *only* fun I have is in the studio or over internet and phone? So, I’m taking more trips, getting out more, taking more down time to regenerate. If I feel like reading comics or watching movies all day, then I will. If I feel like taking a week off in Haiti this january, screw it… I’ll book a flight. Just did.
It’s amazing to see how huge my little microbrand has become, and it’s damn sure gratifying, and I’m absolutely thankful to all the people that helped that become a new world for me. But I will be taking some time off this year. And I’ll be digging it.
BTW, remember the etched metal project we talked about? I have a WAY better idea about that and we should really talk. Seriously. You’ll love this one (it’s different than the most recent email I sent you). Drop me a line.
This is as much about growing up as it is about creativity. Lots of people drink heaps and take drugs in their 20s. Some of them are creative, boho types. And many of them aren’t – because (in the UK at least) drugs are everywhere. That shelf stacker in Sainburys is probably dropping trips or a pill this weekend.
Most people stop taking drugs. Some don’t. A selection of either group will be “creative” types. The ones that ease up on the drink/drugs will probably be more productive because as you get older you can’t go on a 2 day bender and then be fully functional the next morning.
If you manage your own life and don’t work a 9 to 5 job then the temptation to piss it up against a wall is all the stronger because the discipline has to come from within, it’s not externally imposed.
As I get older, drink & drugs get less and less interesting. At the same time, let’s not get puritanical here: getting off your face can be heaps of fun (damn, there goes my political career).
Hugh, not having known much about you until last year, I’m really enjoying these little installments. 🙂
Some folks need mood modifiers to get in touch with their artistic voice. I think it’s a process of maturity to realize that voice is already there — learning to tap into it. Sometimes what it brings up is scary.
One of my all-time favorite writers, Welsh beauty Jean Rhys, wrote one of the greatest examples of English prose in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea. She was an older woman then, and I’m told she couldn’t write without a drink by her side. She definitely wasn’t partying.
Word. Less bitchin and more working is the right attitude for success. There’s always going to be a segment of cats that just don’t know that the party’s over. They’re left wondering when life passed them by.
I’ve seen John’s work before, both his portfolio and his website. He did a great article on turning your blog into a shop and what online solutions were available.