Mind Expansion and Other Delusions

Posted: November 19, 2012 in Prose
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Writing has always been an integral part of my life. I can’t remember when I decided to become a writer. I suspect it came from an infatuation with comic books and Star Wars. I would get so angry sitting around waiting for Lucas to follow up Return of the Jedi, I’d just make up new storylines and act them out with Star Wars action figures. Crazy, I know. I suppose most writers have delusions of grandeur at an early age. The innocent days of childhood. Somewhere my dream of  becoming a storyteller shifted into a much darker realm. Fast forward a couple decades. Years abundant with self-torment, drug addiction, and mental anguish. I used to believe that those were the key ingredients of good writing.

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with Kurt Cobain, William Burroughs, and Vincent Van Gogh. No wonder I wound up drowning in manic depression, struggling with drug addiction, and living with suicidal tendencies. And to think, I actually strived for the life of the tortured artist. Be careful what you wish for. I thought drugs expanded the artistic vision. Maybe they do in some moderate instances. But it turned into a living nightmare for me. I became so preoccupied with the drugs, I started writing less frequently. I had little time for anything but chasing after the drugs. The addiction consumed everything. It overwhelmed me. I quit high school and college. Forfeited my position at a local newspaper. I have witnessed the depraved evils of mankind. Evils that many authors only imagine in their writings. I have twice survived prison. I’ve slept in cars. I’ve fought with the best of them, or the worst of them, and walked away bloodied and bruised. I’ve seen twenty-eights friends buried as a result of drugs and countless lives left in ruin. Though I may be able to write with a sense of authenticity now, I’m not so sure that I couldn’t have just read about this stuff instead of experiencing it directly. Take it from me, drugs will hurt more than they help your writing.

My memory may be fried, but one thing I do remember is the day Cobain killed himself. Cobain was more than a musical icon to my generation. He was a symbol of contempt for the mundane existence that was being thrust upon us at the time. Some of us didn’t want the life that our parents had. We didn’t want to work our lives away for corporations that cared so little for us in return. We felt abandoned by our parents and a society dictated by corporate greed. Somehow the corporate world still managed to get a stranglehold on Kurt. We watched our superhero deteriorate via MTV as the record label just continued cashing in on his artistic talent. I recall the utter lack of hope I felt when I heard the news of his suicide. He seemed to be on top of the world, adorned with all the money and fame a person could want. If that wasn’t enough for a legend, what hope did the rest of Generation X really have? Some of us surrendered to the corporate world and some of us surrendered to our addictions. I was heaped in with the latter of the two.

Burroughs had to live with the fact that he had shot and killed his wife (accidental or not) while all hopped up on bennys and God knows what else. He was a portrait of the toxicity of narcotics to the human constitution. He was always broke, both financially and physically. Few people could stand being around him more than a few hours. And Vincent, we’ve all heard the stories of Vincent. Supported by his brother Theo. The self-mutilation. His desperate search for the companionship he would never have. The suicide in the sunflowers. It makes one really question this tortured artist gig. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some insane experiences to write about. But this crazy lifestyle has set me way back and I don’t recommend it. Especially after seeing so many intelligent people fall to waste rather than rise to glory. My advice to the up and coming artists: just watch a bunch of R rated movies instead of experiencing this crap first hand. Addiction will definitely hinder you more than it will help you.

So what now? What is one to do after waking up from this malaise to a state of utter devastation? Thank God for blogs I say. Otherwise, I would have little opportunity to express myself artistically. Especially in this age of self-publication where money talks and poverty walks. I used to think I was born to enlighten the world. Then I thought that I was here to burn it down. Now I’m just angry with myself for wasting so much time that I will never be able to regain. When I think of the tormented artists I so admired in my teenage years, I now know how tortured they were. Don’t put yourself in this position.


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