Artists and additction

I finished Marky Ramone’s autobiography¬†Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone. Marky Ramone is an alcoholic. His rock bottom wasn’t getting fired from the band. It wasn’t blacking out and crashing his car into a furniture store. His rock bottom came not long after his first stint in rehab. He was drinking at a friends house and had to crash on the couch. When he made it home the next afternoon, his wife, Marion, told him he couldn’t live with her any more.

You’re outta here, punk.

He checked himself into a tougher rehab. His Psychiatrist told him to take a break from music – at least a year – so he could fully rehab. He did. His wife let him back in. He worked as a bike messenger and in construction. Four years later, the Romones asked him back. He even helped his fellow Romones with their addictions.

Markie Ramone is in his 60s now. Sober for over 30 years.

I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing. King was also an alcoholic. Alcohol wasn’t enough, I guess, so he took up cocaine. Must be an overachiever. Stephen’s wife, Tab, told him to go into rehab or move out. She and their children didn’t want to see Stephen slowly commit suicide.

Stephen King is clean and sober now.

King had some interesting comments on addiction. Creative types with addictions think the addiction is the source of creation.

Just an excuse, King says. An alki is an alki regardless of profession. Maybe creative types or more prone to addiction, he said, but saying your work is dependent on addiction is hiding.

That got me to thinking. Are creative people more prone to addiction? My first instinct is to say no (and I don’t think King was convinced either).

Sure, you can find plenty of examples of addictive artists if you look. You can find plenty of examples of artists without addictions if you look. We tend to find what we look for.

There are non-creative people who have addictions and non-creative people who don’t.

Steven Pressfield has weighed in on this. So has Seth Godin.

There is a tension between needing to do the work and not doing the work. The tension drives us nuts. We want to do the work. Desperately want to do the work. But we are afraid to start. We don’t know where to start. How to start. And what if we start and fail?

We become drunks and addicts because of the tension. We take on all sorts of bad habits in an attempt to relieve the tension. So just start the work and the tension goes away, right? No, it doesn’t.

The tension is there before we start and when we start and while we work. It’s there when we finish, because now we have to start again.

The tension never goes away. It’s never silenced.

So learn to live with it.

Tension is a guide. No tension in your work? Then you probably don’t care that much about it. It’s not that important.

The tension means your on to something. Something important.