The, Umm, Creative Life

The, Umm, Creative Life October 15, 2022


An 1845 broadside depicting “The Record of Rajah Manchou of Vorito,” commonly known as the “Voree Plates,” which were allegedly discovered by James J. Strang and used to promote his leadership of the Latter Day Saint movement.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Newly available from the Interpreter Foundation:


Witnesses of the Book of Mormon — Insights Episode 26: James Strang’s Witnesses

James Strang was a recent convert to the church who claimed to be the successor of Joseph after the martyrdom. Strang also claimed to have discovered ancient metal plates, What do we know about this man and his claims?

This is the twenty-sixth in a series compiled from the many interviews conducted during the course of the Witnesses film project. This series of mini-films is being released each Saturday at 7pm MDT. These additional resources are hosted by Camrey Bagley Fox, who played Emma Smith in Witnesses, as she introduces and visits with a variety of experts. These individuals answer questions or address accusations against the witnesses, also helping viewers understand the context of the times in which the witnesses lived. This week we feature Daniel C. Peterson, President of the Interpreter Foundation and Executive Producer of Witnesses. For more information, go to or watch the documentary movie Undaunted.

Short clips from this episode are also available on TikTok and Instagram.

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Morning was spent in the swimming pool.  Early afternoon was spent at a showing of Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.  It was a bit loud and, at points, apparently a bit too scary.  With the help of popcorn and a firmly-clutched stuffed corgi, though, we managed to see the movie through to the end.  It also helps, I think, to have a grandma and an uncle and a more or less adequately functional grandpa on full-time duty.  But the absent parental units, it seems, were completely unmissed.  And, on demand, outdoor-grilled Bratwurst for dinner!  (After pizza last night.)




I’ve already mentioned in prior blog entries that I’ve been reading Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner’s, 2000).  In view of the fact (also already mentioned) that I’ve never been a fan of Stephen King — nor, for that matter, an un-fan; I simply haven’t paid much attention — I’m a little bit surprised myself at how much I’ve enjoyed the book.


He was, apparently, a serious alcoholic and drug addict for a number of the years when he was cementing his stature as a prolifically best-selling writer, and he speaks with frankness and considerable authority on the matter of addiction to drugs and alcohol and its relationship to the writing life.


Alcoholics build defenses like the Dutch build dikes.  I spent the first twelve years or so of my married life assuring myself that I “just liked to drink.”  I also employed the world-famous Hemingway Defense.  Although never clearly articulated (it would not be manly to do so), the Hemingway Defense goes something like this: as a writer, I am a very sensitive fellow, but I am also a man, and real men don’t give in to their sensitivities.  Only sissy-men do that.  Therefore I drink.  How else can I face the existential horror of it all and continue to work?  Besides, come on, I can handle it.  A real man always can. . . .

By 1985 I had added drug addition to my alcohol problems, yet I continued to function, as a good many substance abusers do, on a marginally competent level.  (94, 96)


He even acknowledges that he scarcely remembers writing his novel Cujo, which he regrets because he rather likes the novel and says that he probably enjoyed or, anyway, would have enjoyed writing it.


A major intervention was finally required from wife, family, and friends in order to save him from going over the brink.  So I was pleased to see this very strong statement from him, which I hope that nobody reading this blog of mine really needs:


The idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time.  The four twentieth-century writers whose work is most responsible for it are probably Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet Dylan Thomas.  They are the writers who largely formed our vision of an existential English-speaking wasteland where people have been cut off from one another and live in an atmosphere of emotional strangulation and despair.  These concepts are very familiar to most alcoholics, the common reaction to them is amusement.  Substance-abusing writers are just substance abusers — common garden-variety drunks and druggies, in other words.  Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving [coarse two-syllable term omitted].  I’ve heard alcoholic snowplow drivers make the same claim, that they drink to still the demons.  It doesn’t matter if you’re James Jones, John Cheever, or a stewbum snoozing in Penn Station; for an addict, the right to the drink or drug of choice must be preserved at all costs.  Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak.  They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do.  Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what?  We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.  (98-99)


I’ve been told more than once that drugs and booze help with The Creative Process.  But I’ve never believed it.  I’ve wondered what people like Charlie Parker, Tennessee Williams, Miles Davis, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sonny Rollins, William Faulkner, John Coltrane, Whitney Houston, Edgar Allen Poe, and Billie Holiday might have achieved without their addictions.  Of course, we’ll never know.


I also like this passage from Stephen King:


When I’m asked for “the secret of my success” (an absurd idea, that, but impossible to get away from), I sometimes say there are two: I stayed physically healthy (at least until a van knocked me down by the side of the road in the summer of 1999), and I stayed married.  It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because there is an element of truth in it.  The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self-reliant woman who takes zero [coarse monosyllabic term, related to the two-syllable term above, omitted] from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible.  And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.  (154-155)


My debt to my wonderful, steady, reliable, self-reliant wife for whatever inconsequential achievements I may have to my name is absolutely incalculable, as anybody who knows the two of us will readily recognize.


Posted from Miami, Florida



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