Women writers on alcohol and the level of hypocrisy in society

Many of my girlfriends have been part of a conversation where they were suddenly ambushed by their male peers who have asked them “Why are you getting so aggressive?”, and the same men have occasionally afforded themselves the luxury of throwing a fit of anger. After being a firsthand victim of such incidents I started gravitating towards women who stand outside of being ‘likeable’ by the society. They are, in my experience, more real and I have had some of the best, funniest, self-deprecating and most intelligent conversations with them.
Just as the feisty opinionated persona of a woman has been off-putting, for society, women writers and alcohol was rather an unpalatable topic. When writer Jane Bowles went to see her neurologist to cope with her alcohol addiction she was told to ‘go back to your pots and pans and try to cope’. Rather than validating their temperament and choice of lifestyle, even a little acknowledgement by the society, unadulterated by sexist views and stereotypes would have gone a long way. In a moment of ignorance, the neurologist dismissed Jane Bowles, a person, a writer and reduced her to just another undomesticated woman who wasn’t domesticated enough.
I have always worshipped literary geniuses like Ernest Hemingway, Woody Allen, Hunter Thompson, Van Gogh, F. Scott Fitzgerald and admired their struggle as much as their work, but the struggles and stories of women artists seemed to be airbrushed from history. Their struggles are often times dismissed as weakness in character. Although, of late, we have started recognising many female artists for their wonderful artistic and literary creations, their struggles and journey have not been as well-celebrated as that of men.
The relationship between art and drinking has been quite significant. Although some of the most successful artists are ones who have always been much disciplined, there are those who have struggled with addictions. The reality of alcoholism is ugly and there is nothing glorifying, artistically or otherwise, about vomiting and being a painful mess. There is no escaping the brutality of such an addiction.
But what is most astonishing is the unsettling aspect of society’s acceptance towards the art and literature produced by troubled artists, but a total disregard for the tortured mental anguish from where it is birthed. It’s the case of the golden egg and the goose where the world loves the beautiful creations which is equivalent to the golden egg, but would rather detach itself from the unruly, disagreeable aspects of the personalities of the golden goose that birthed such brilliance. “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them” said Anaïs Nin, a French novelist.
ninWhen it comes to women writers and their drinking patterns the level of hypocrisy they are faced with is just surprising. Society has always condemned and shunned women that are fierce, savage, and opinionated, and rather seeks to mould women into docile little doves that they could tame to their liking. It is disturbing how the society is completely blind about these women’s work and talent, and rather focuses on the negative aspects of their personalities.
DurasJean Rhys, a Caribbean novelist, wrote in her diary that drinking helped her “see the truth, the simplicity and the primitive emotions once more”. Frida Kahlo, whose style and art will never be forgotten, downed Tequila straight from the bottle. “I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim.”
Elizabeth Bishop, who was a poet and a Pulitzer winner, heavily reclined towards the bottle and in her poem, A Drunkard, she tried to word the emotions an alcoholic gets caught into, “I have suffered from abnormal thirst – I swear it’s true – and by the age of twenty and twenty-one I had begun to drink and drink – I can’t get enough, and as much as you have noticed I’m half-drunk now”.
PlathSylvia Plath, the queen of confessional poetry, wrote, “I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike”.
Leah Odze Epstein and her partner started the Drinking Diaries blog in 2009 exploring why female writers like to drink. She compiled some brilliant answers  through her project.
Having shared these wonderful bites what remains to be said is that for every talented intoxicated artist there have been many delusional, mediocre, intoxicated failures. It is stupid to romanticize the drug/alcohol-addled, narcissistic, self-glorifying addictions of the artistic world while the majority of great artists try hard to stay healthy so they can do what they love doing the most, for a long time – CREATE.

Creativity without biases

Biases. We all have them.

We deal with them, we silence them, but there’s no denying how much they affect our creative judgment.

Our creative journey is always filled with highs and lows — days when we feel the flow; someday nothing inspires us. Some days we hate everything around us and there are some days when everything around us inspires us.

We have bundles of stuff we go through each day – some intrigues and some inspires. Biases have the power to shape our judgment, make us see things in a new light, and can set the tone for our entire line of work.

There is a Wikipedia page for biases. Attentional bias, lesser-is-better bias, pro-innovation bias, belief bias, choice-supportive bias, confirmation bias, curse of knowledge bias, hindsight bias, illusion of control bias omission bias, optimism bias, pessimism bias, reactive devaluation bias, selective perception bias, survivorship bias, triviality bias, actor-observer bias, group attribution error, and projection bias.

Expressing a creative concept on a blank paper calls forth a mysterious meeting point for all our deep-rooted biases. Our biases – born from our constant aim for self-actualization remind us of our past while we try to create something new in the premise of something unknown and new.

These biases dismiss the distinctively new idea from being birthed or shaped on the blank page. A self-serving bias which is basically “The tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than failures” often stops us from creating more ideas that we fear might fail.

Our past shores up all the experiences and validates a new idea against various standards it has set. The standards of perfection, of being safe, of being culturally/socially right, of seeing the idea through its completion, of being the first of its kind.

History sets the context for the present. Unfortunately it also sets context to ideas that we work on and those that we don’t. While our creativity and art belong to the future, our past is already setting context to it.

Blank paper is where this confluence lies.

A number of mental processes of retrieval, association, synthesis, transformation, analogical transfer go into a creative process. Retrieval of what we have seen, earned, learned. Not that we can dismiss it. But we can reorient our ideas to see that they stand to be real and minus the flavors of our mind’s biases.

Bright, airy and playful sketchbooks

bppI am reaching out to more and more artists whose work makes me believe in truth, beauty and aesthetics. The way they juggle between their design projects and day jobs while adapting their introvert nature to grow and become business owners is so inspiring.

Last week I picked up a beautiful sketch book made of handmade papers. The keen sense of playful patterns got me curious about its creator. There was something bright, airy and child-like about it. What I loved about this cutely threaded bounded book was that, unlike the kitsch ones you find in market, these sketchbooks were not trying hard to make a point.

Later during the day I emptied my shopping bag and quickly leafed through the pages of the sketchbook. On the back-end of the cover I found the website address http://www.salonelfi.de.

Here is an interesting sneak peek into her design project and inspiration I found at http://blog.grassi-museum.com.

Verena Schätzlein initially studied textile and surface pattern design at the Kunstakademie Stuttgart, before moving to Berlin where she established her own studio. In 2000 Verena was commissioned for a fair trade carpet project in India; a project which was to be the start of a long-term relationship with the land, its people, and for all its craftsmen.

In the intervening decade+ Verena has undertaken regular projects and commissions in India and makes at least one trip per year to the land. For all the variety of crafts techniques still being practiced in the country is a constant source of wonder and inspiration for Verena.

When you are there and spend all day working with the locals, she enthuse, you get completely different view of both life and your work.

And so it was perhaps not surprising that four years ago Verena decided to start developing and producing her own products in co-operation with a workers collective in India. All the wooden elements in the Salon Elfi range are turned and constructed in India and then hand-painted in Verena’s Berlin atelier.

In addition to the wooden objects, Verena also creates delightful screen printed paper and textile products. For us the Salon Elfi products have a certain child-like innocence, a certain timelessness. Is this deliberate?

“I suppose I tend to think about what impressed me as a child, and about what I used to like playing with. And I have never been someone who has paid much attention to fashions or trends, which has allowed me to develop my style. “

Scaffolding thoughts before they hit a blank page

Scaffolding thoughts before they hit a blank page

Today’s Writers on a Blank Paper post comes from Khushnum Mistry. Khushnum is a writer and the greatest food connoisseur I have ever met. Her home is a beautiful abode of warmth and sweetness and you are privy to some enviable finds and treasures in every corner.
Khushnum’s many interests include photography, trashy reality tv shows, painting, travelling, singing and painting her pet turtle’s nails. You can follow her writing at http://dreamingangel86.blogspot.com/

Do share your thoughts on a blank paper here: https://blankpaperproject.com/what-is-blank-paper-project/

Sail into the vastness of a blank paper


I might be late to the party, but reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea has really opened my mind to the new sights and sounds of a nautical prose. After reading few wayfaring short stories by other notable writers, I prefer Hemingway’s timeless and deceptively simple narrative art.

Hemingway was passionately involved in deep sea fishing and the fable crafts a story set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana.

While reading the book, I wondered…is blank paper to me, what sea is to the old man? It challenges him and tests his resolution, time after time. “The old man knew he was far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean.”

To buy the copy of this book click here: http://www.homeshop18.com/old-man-sea/author:ernest-hemingway/isbn:9780099908401/books/juvenile-fiction/product:23535403/cid:10412/?it_category=hs18bot&it_action=moreBooksFromAuthor&it_label=23535403&it_value=0

Diary chooses the owner

My Diary

A glass pane that allows a faraway stare, a soulful playlist and a warm cup of coffee – while watching rain drops run down the window – monsoon is here! And it’s the time of the year to start romanticizing about everything. Even the city looks like it is sipping on whisky with a solemn loneliness in its eyes.

This is just the season to fill our pages with meditative writing, reflective doodle and artistic randomness. So I bought this Paperkraft diary yesterday and the pages call out to me to fill them with words, illustrations and dummy ideas.

I am starting a series on Blank Paper Project called the “Diary chooses the owner”. Here you will get a sneak peek into different sketchbooks, diaries, and notebooks of writers and illustrators.  Wish me luck. I am quite excited as you are. We all are sucker for all things stationary. So this will be quite a gratifying journey for us. Please tell me how you want these series to shape up as time goes.

On Blank Paper – The unwritten words are only a pit stop for all things good.

Mansi Pal

Nothing ring me in the mood and restores my faith in humanity than getting a mail from one of my colleagues at work enclosing her views on Blank Paper. Such a delightful surprise! With our busy schedules, the thought of writing something that requires ethnic cleansing of many voices in our head is challenging. Special thanks to Mansi. Well, since I am sucker for everything post card, greeting cards, note cards, hand-written cards I am sending her a little thank you note which i hope is keepsake worthy.

Mansi is a kook who believes in Angels, but is skeptical about God. She is a backpacker of the mind and places, when at a pit-stop she reads, watches, dreams, drinks chai and clicks.Some of her travel tales sit at http://chaiaroundtheworld.wordpress.com/. All this might be a lie, because according to her hero, House MD, everybody lies.You can follow her https://twitter.com/mansipal

If you are a writer or an illustrator and wish to be featured on the Blank Paper Project do write to me! The project is a special little place to store all those soul-warming views on Blank Paper.