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One of the news aggregators I follow had a blurb on an article about “magic mushrooms” that caught my eye. It also had this quote from William Blake that caught the attention of both of my eyes:

If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.

While the article was interesting (apparently, shrooms slow down the brain instead of speeding it up), the quote from Blake was what got my attention — and got me to thinking.

First of all, it reminded me of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where prisoners were only able to see the projected shadows of things from the real world. Since they’ve never seen the “real” things, they assume that the shadows are all that there is. At least until one of them gets loose and exits the cave to take in the “real” reality. Of course, when he tries to relate what he’s seen to the other prisoners, they all think he’s a full-of-shit nutcase.

I’ve done my share of shrooms and pot, and alcohol — at least how I consume it — has a similar effect on how reality is perceived. Since I’ve (mostly) quit drinking and don’t have the extra cash nor easy access to shrooms or pot, my reality has been a bit too “real” for my tastes. And that’s affected my writing. At least my writing of what I call poetry.

So back to Blake and his quote and how it applies to my perception of the world and writing poetry (I can’t speak to yours, since I’m not you)…

My writing process typically went like this: sit down at the computer with a fifth of whiskey, read the news, play a little “Words with Friends”, then keep on sipping that whiskey until something hit me. I ended up with a lot of incomprehensible, unfinished crap, but every once in a while something worthwhile would be on my screen by morning. Since I don’t write poetry for a living (though I’m trying to change that) productivity and prolific output were not issues. For me, the process was more cathartic. Yes, I’d share what I’d written with others, but I was writing primarily for myself and no one else.

I think the reason I found it so easy to write while intoxicated (or blacked out, in many cases), was that all of my “filters” were disabled. My inner editor, my sense of morals and propriety… all were temporarily knocked out of commission and the words flowed freely. And I enjoyed it. I loved being drunk and it turned out that writing make it even more enjoyable.

The problem I’m running into now as a sober writer is that the editor, the moralist and the prude are all trying to run the show. Instead of writing what I see and feel, I find myself trying to write what I think other people see and feel. Or what I think other people expect me to see and feel. What makes it even more difficult is that I don’t have a clue what that might be. After what’s approaching thirty years of abusing the shit out of my brain and other important organs with booze and the occasional “side dish”, my sober thinking is probably more fucked up than when I was always plastered.

So what to do? For starters, I think I’m going to print out this quote from Blake and tape it to my monitor. That way I’ll have a constant visual reminder that the perceptions I relate in my writing must come from within — and without the filters of what I imagine is “normal” or acceptable or even good writing.

In other words, I need to write for myself again. If it happens that other people like it, wonderful. If not, fuck’em.

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