Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that- or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation- is worth it to me.” Christopher Hitchens in an interview with Charlie Rose, as quoted in Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

So what do you think about this quote?

Would you do anything for your art?

Let me add some background to the above mentioned quote: Rose asked this question after Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, when Rose asked if he (Hitchens) regretted his past smoking and drinking.

Does that fact change the way that you look at this quote? Does it change the way you think about what you would do for your art? If you could only produce art while under the influence, would you continue to do it even if it meant risking physical, mental or emotional health, or relationships with others?

What is writing (or whatever it is you do) worth to you?


74 thoughts on “To What Lengths

      1. If you had asked, “is there anything that you would die for” then even though it sounds cliche, I would definitely say my family. To take a huge risk for my 1st book or my 50th book makes me wonder where I set my priorities, and why?

        Liked by 2 people

  1. This is complicated. I would never do that, but I’m not driven the way a lot of authors and artists are. Also, I doubt I would produce anything good under the influence! My view did change a bit when I saw the context. But I think many great artists/writers are driven by a force they have little control over. So in the sense that writers/artists in this group would do anything, I believe Hitchens is correct in what he says about himself.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I wouldn’t but I can see the appeal. I once did an oral presentation in grad school after a party at work. I was much a better speaker after a couple of drinks and would probably write freer if I wrote that way as well. I still wouldn’t drink to excess for writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What’s the risk. Would you cross a busy street? Fly in a plane?
    You don’t live in a bubble. Live your life, take a risk now and then, but be reasonable. Grow up. Don’t ride on the rear fender of a bus when you hit 50 years old. (Did that often enough as a kid). Life without any risk is no life at all.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Chris Hitchens was a fine writer and interesting guy, but I would wager he would have chained smoked and boozed it up if he were a Bishop of all of what’s holy. And in my limited understanding it’s damn hard to just sit and think. So back in the day, the use (abuse) of nicotine and three fingers of whichever hooch, served as a timing device of enough thinking it through and let’s just do.

    It’s not about the art, its about the “act” of being creative.

    Now we’re content to multi-task. Go to the gym, work on your brand, text your therapist. Things change….like the new Basil Hayden bottle.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I know a lot of writers think that creativity only comes when you’re under the influence of a substance. But I don’t think that’s true. Creativity and ideas come with connections and observation. I personally don’t like to write under the influence.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I was at a writer’s conference years ago and got to have lunch with Sue Grafton. She said to never write after drinking. She said many writers thought they could write better but it doesn’t help. That seemed to be a strange comment out of nowhere, but I’m sure she’s correct.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. He was living life. I don’t think he drank and smoke to write, I don’t know him. It would be like snacking or having to go for a walk, whatever we do to motivate and tap into the creative part of our brain. Everyone has different habits. Good/Bad we decide for ourselves. My opinion.

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  8. I’ve read/heard that a lot of creative people are prone to be addicts of one kind or another. I have difficulty understanding how this helps fuel their muse. The only thing I’d do for my art is NOT hinder it with a substance. It feels less genuine.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Oh gosh…I love to write but I can’t imagine what sort of drivel would flow if I was less than sober. I get silly/stupid…same if I haven’t slept. Okay. Truth? Silly/stupid is kind of my nature. Period! 🤣

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I don’t fully agree with this quote, however I do understand the commitment to one’s art or passion. For me personally, once I became a divorced mother at the age of 25, my baby son became my primary focus. Not my artistic endeavors. My child’s needs had to be placed far above my own passion to become a successful actress, or a published author. I got a back up degree in Elementary education while in college and so art/drama were revised and used to enhance my classroom experiences rather than becoming my focus or vocation.
    I had to stop going on auditions and turned down several local theatrical roles when they interfered with my ability to teach (earn a living) or limited my time with my son. So my “art” was pushed to the side to make sure my child got a good balance of love and affection with his one remaining parent. (His father lived across country and he saw him only once a year).
    So…Switching away from myself and my own needs was an easy choice for me to make. In the real world providing a roof over my child’s head became my first priority. However,
    I could still remain passionate about writing, I just switched from my own personal stories to grants, creative writing lessons, and innovative ways to teach writing skills to children.

    I realized I could get thousands in supplies for my classroom by writing educational grants which when awarded gave me funding for books, lessons, tech equipment etc. any and all items which would help my students develop a knowledge and appreciation of poetry, narrative and expository essays etc. so yes, I was still passionate about the same things. I just rearranged how I channeled my interests. *After all, I had to be realistic about my priorities. I learned to balance those things. Thinking back I am amazed that I was so mature about my decisions at such a young age. . But my back was against the wall when I suddenly became a young single parent. I knew I could learn to become a good mother and a good teacher, and since my teaching income was necessary for the survival of my child, it was either to take care of my son or abandon my parental responsibilities. Obviously I chose my child first. And I never regretted it.

    All Women who become mothers have to juggle their priorities. Most men (especially of my generation), didn’t have to do that. The men in those days usually went to work and let their wives care for the children. Single moms don’t have that luxury.

    I think in any profession you have to balance your goals and priorities, especially if you are a parent. If you are single your ability to focus on your goals is more available to you.

    Once my son was a little older I was able to write short stories, interviews and articles for Romance Writers of America and Florida Romance Writers, along with attending meetings and workshops, but my main focus became writing educational lessons and grants for my county. All in all, I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There’s a new documentary out, nominated for an Oscar…All That Breathes. It’s about these brothers in India studying air quality and it’s effect on birds. After my husband and I watched it, the first thing my husband said was “does he ever spend time with his kids?” My husband couldn’t imagine putting that much time into something, no matter how noble the cause

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I used to smoke like a chimney and drink like a fish, and write in cliches . . .
    I was much more amusing when drunk (to myself at least) but never actually found much time to write.

    Now that I’m sober and not coughing I have more time to write. But deep down I still have a hankering to be Dylan Thomas, rather than respectable.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t understand or appreciate this compulsion to be under some kind of “state” in order to be productive or creative. If you are an artist it should come naturally to you. Rural artisans do not necessarily go into an inebriated state in order to get initiated into or enhance their art. Alcoholics and addicts make up all sorts of weird excuses to justify their weaknesses. Period.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Not that it changes the quote but it effects it… meaning, if you’re going to live/die for your art/craft… fully to whatever extent you choose… rather that be in excess or pure… him knowing the root of his problems was of his own making… it was done. He couldn’t change it- and if it helped him in his mind- who’s about to argue with someone dying of cancer.

    Now I’m not condoning drinking drugs smoking etc… I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs and I’m highly allergic to cigarettes (tobacco and nicotine)…

    But I mess with pot. So to an extent it’s like I can relate. Being about relaxing me… or helping me push through while I work… now while I don’t plan on this being the cause of my doom/end… if I’m enjoying an edible or a bowl- while I’m creating, it’s just that. I’m not out here intentionally trying to take myself out of the game… least I hope I’m not intentionally!!!

    Hate that there are things that will cause such a painful and difficult end… but the sentiment of his words are bigger than the source itself.

    Good post, thanks for sharing! 💚


  14. I know that on visits to Italy, after I’d drunk most of a bottle of red wine, I could understand conversations at adjacent tables – and I don’t speak Italian. I have schoolgirl Spanish and even worse French. But by being relaxed and not thinking about trying to understand, I understood. So I get how creatives can believe that relaxation aids them getting into the flow.

    But I think it’s important to understand the importance of this question’s timing. I believe his response was the result of coming to a place of acceptance of his upcoming death, and that and he was (largely) content with the life he’d led – and if cancer was the price he’d (unwittingly) paid, so be it.

    Hitchens also famously said his sole regret was all the books which would remain unread – which I just ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There’s a lot of things I would do to be able to keep writing, but getting hung up on an addiction to keep writing?? NO! For I write because it brings me pleasure, because my imagination keeps going. I am not getting hooked on something that could possibly damage my brain, and health!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s so interesting, I was just having a similar conversation with someone recently. They asked me if I could write for a living would I. I answered faster than I thought I would. I said no, citing that what I loved most about writing was the space of freedom from constraints, from negotiations about what should be or shouldn’t be in a piece of writing. After reading your post, I also think that there are more important things than writing, which I would not give up for writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I never smoked, and only drank for a little while, but much of my creativity stemmed from my unsettled mind. I’ve written about this in my blog before. I have bipolar. I went for decades without meds because I didn’t want to kill my creativity, which I thought meds would do.

    In the end though, I chose sanity over writing. I still have the urge to write — hence blogging — but the muse is gone. No more poetry or short stories for me. Every once in awhile, one might come out, but the overwhelming passion for the art just isn’t there. What used to take up every waking hour of my day is gone. But, I’ve lived with sane me and mentally interesting me. I like sane me better. Even if she can’t write for nuthin’.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Writing helps me find balance and calm, so I really wouldn’t be able to answer your question.

    I do often feel compelled to write, but because it brings me positivity. Somehow, balance in my life is what helps me write better but then, writing is a hobby for me and is far from an all-consuming passion like it is for many professional writers.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Of all I struggle with, I am fortunate not to be plagued by any substance abuse — though I often say that is because of my children. If I didn’t have them I would have found myself absorbed behind a set of brown bottles with shaky hands reaching towards another. In a creative aspect, is my health worth more than words I right? Yes, in retrospect. It would be difficult to abstain from something if I deemed my writing superior with it.
    I used to think I wrote best concealing my anger, keep myself shut away from the rest of the world, but I missed an invaluable piece to include in my own writing: experience from myself and others.
    Now, I’ve found I write best studying the minds of the characters I create, getting to know them. But this ofteb requires a lot of solitude, a lot of time spent jotting down on pieces of paper or drowning out the world around me and in some cases I’ve missed moments with my family. I’m fortunate they understand, but I think all writing, all art comes at the cost of something.
    We offer ourselves to judgement with each piece we write, whether we admit it or not many writings contain pieces of ourselves for complete strangers to digest and often rip apart. I think that while the cost maybe high, the reward is much better. I believe words can change the world, and to that, while I do not condone substance abuse, I say: write on.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Writing means everything to me, and I am guilty of participating in activities with the idea that they would make compelling blog posts. But while it’s empowering to say “I would die for my art!” I draw the line at doing so literally.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I am a disabled woman and an author and one of my dreams is to become a New York Times best seller but have gone through all the things I have gone through in medical life. I can honestly say that No I would not do “anything” to continue to produce my art of writing good novels. There is the thought that when I am drinking wine it helps me to produce good sexual scenes in my stories. For the alcohol puts me in a sensual kind of mood BUT I also have horrible Gets and could have esophageal cancer as well if I were to over do it with the alcohol so I stopped. Nothing is worth me doing anything to leave this world before God is ready for me to leave…

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I think of living life as art itself so yes I will do almost anything to achieve my goals if I thought it would not make me feel regret unfortunately illness is a part of living for most of us. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

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