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.

Consultant and Editor Jim Davis on Creative writing for Brands

When I started Blank Paper Project, one of my biggest goals was to celebrate and showcase independent artists, illustrators and writers from all over the world and create a platform for all the stationery-aficionados like myself. So whenever I stumbled upon a creative person from my circle or beyond from the big World Wide Web, I wanted to instantly share the stuff he/she created with rest of the world. So when my clicks got me to the totalcontent website, the first thing I noticed was this beautiful orange notebook with a double-decked bus stamp on it.slide1-lg

 totalcontent is a UK-based company that helps agencies and companies with cross-disciplinary writing services, and help set tone of voice for their business. They offer creative copy solutions to assist clients for designing a brand identity; from creating a website, a well-crafted snappy name to anything that would bring words to their aid.

Jim K Davies, the writer, editor and consultant at totalcontent shares his creative journey, and his stationery collection with us. Thank you so much Jim for joining us for these series.

Tell us what inspired you to start totalcontent?

I started out as a design journalist, writing about design for magazines and newspapers in the UK and US. Through this I made a lot of friends and contacts in the design world, who’d ask me to help them out with words. Before long, the commercial writing took over, so I set up totalcontent with my wife Deborah [Kings], who mainly looks after the business side. Working as totalcontent gives us the flexibility to bring in other talented people on projects when necessary. We like to come across slightly playful and for the enjoyment we get from writing to shine through.

Which brands do you think have it right with deciding the tonality of their brands?

It goes in cycles — I guess it depends on the people and structure in place at the time. Ten years ago, in the UK at least, Orange and Innocent were held up as the champions of brand tone of voice, but now they’ve gone off the boil. Currently, there are some smaller brands like Hiut Denim and Peppersmith whose written personality is great. Though they’re very different, they don’t try too hard and have their own particular charm.

I must say the poem about a certain Mrs McCave had me in splits. Do you have more of these gems to share?


I really enjoy nonsense poetry and wordplay. I think it shares something with copywriting in that it has to be concise, keep the audience engaged and find a twist. Though Dr Seuss was nominally writing for kids, his verbal dexterity is a delight to all:

How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

John Hegley is great too:

My doggie don’t wear glasses
so they’re lying when they say
a dog looks like its owner
aren’t they?”

 And of course, the late, great Spike Milligan:

“ ‘Farewell,’ said the man who was drowning.
Said the man with the disease, ‘goodbye’.
So the man who was drowning, drownded
And the man with the disease past away.
But apart from that,
And a fire in my flat,
It’s been a very nice day.”

What do you feel when you stare at a blank page, before your words shape on the whiteness of the document? 

I don’t usually have the luxury to feel anything. I have deadlines to meet!

If someone issues a search warrant for your work station, what are they likely to stumble into?

A plastic orange nose that holds my reading glasses when I’m not using them, a Mondrian mouse mat, a silver iPod Classic, a tub of gum, a collection of Stabilo fibre pens of many colours, my late father’s Parker 75, an Artemide Toledo desk light, and of course my trusty 27-inch 2010 iMac. Deborah’s desk is directly opposite and is mirror image of mine, although she doesn’t have a plastic orange nose or nearly as many pens.

Which journal are you using currently?

I’m currently using a Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines notebook , which combines with an app to upload written notes to Evernote. I have to admit I’ve only done this once to check if it worked. Leuchtturm1917 is my favourite notebook at the moment (orange A5 squared). But I still have a soft spot for Rhodia and Quo Vadis Habana too, partly because they satisfy my craving for anything orange, but mainly because they are really well made and pleasing to write on. Browsing in stationers in Europe is most definitely one of my guilty pleasures — especially France and Italy.

About the beautiful bus-stamped notebook, it was a random purchase at the local Sainsbury’s supermarket a couple of years ago. I was attracted to it simply because it’s orange and on sale for about £2. There were a couple of different designs (a car also, I think), and the notebooks came in purple too. But I have to say, it was really disappointing. The paper was thin, so even a fibre tip showed through and the writing splayed. So after eight pages I gave up with it. There’s no information on it, but it says Fountain on the back.


Follow totalcontent on Twitter and be privy to their stationery-obsessed conversations, and awesome links sharing.

Peek into diaries of famous artists and writers


Still in a whirlwind in-between my old city and the new one, I was reminded of just how much I missed spending time-sharing my stationery collection with the world.  My over-stimulation for everything handwritten, handmade and illustrations often betrayed me from my path. The act of gathering itself is so rewarding that I began to find satisfaction in the process of research alone. So I nudged myself to put pen to paper, fingers to my keypad and fledgling attention span to the stillness of a blank page and reconnect with my community of art enthusiasts.

I have shared some handwritten gems by famous artists that inspired me to fill out the pages of diaries, notebooks, with words and illustrations. Especially the old ones which I had discarded half way through.



Handwritten lyrics for ‘No Pussy Blues’ recorded April 2006; released on ‘Grinderman’, 5 March 2007

(Credit: Nick Cave Collection, the Arts Centre, Melbourne)


alice1 alice2 alice3
(The British Library is exhibiting to the public the original Alice in Wonderland manuscript, handwritten and illustrated by Lewis Carroll.)

Mark Twain’s Handwritten Notes


Inventions: a potter’s wheel, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks


Frida Kahlo’s diary


Recently I got my hands on a vintage typewriter and small sketchbooks and diaries. After getting it I realized that however happy these objects made me I should be more aware of my the consumption virus and not become shallow collector of items.

We  often scout flea markets, malls, exhibitions and internet looking for design objects that we keep adding to our reservoir of stuff, often neglecting the experience our souls seeks. Neglecting to soak our consciousness in the very fabric of the design we so adore. And if the stuff does not act as means to a beautiful experience it ceases its role as an agent of art and design.

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. “

Travel Journals

photo(1)Day dreaming is beautiful. You can be a vigilante who tends to his bees by the day and uses them to attack the miscreants in the night, a gardener who grows carnivorous plants, a copywriter working for clients from parallel universe… 

Soon after watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I was left thinking how similar the character was to me. If someone satirically adapts my daydreams onto a motion picture it would defy every logic in the world. I think I need to start cashing into my zone-out time.

Before I zone out again let me get to the point –  the point that the green colored travel journal shown in Walter Mitty movie has given me sleepless nights. It is a gift from Walter’s dad encouraging his son to travel and fill its blank pages with his stories.The letters ‘Travel Journal’ are etched in golden colour  and the front page has the outline of the atlas on it.

I combed stationery shops and online stores  looking for a similar one but could not find it.  So the next best thing I could think of is the travel journal from my favourite stationery brand Moleskine. Moleskine Travel Journal comes with 5 tabbed sections to personalise and has loyalty cards, checklists, calendars, travel information budget, trip planners, memorables beautifully charted for your ventures. With 5 x 8.25 inches the diary fits perfectly in your satchel. 


I have met many travelers in my lifetime, and I love it when they offer me a glimpse into their travel journals. There is always a thing or two that you can learn about travel writing from them.   I cannot wait to fill my travel journal with bills, receipts, Polaroid photos, doodles, descriptions, maps and sketches during my next trip whenever that happens. Till then I shall perch a tent on my terrace and zone-out to some dreamland. Bon Voyage.

Here is an excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Travel Writing book which was a gift from one the aspiring travel writers based in Cornwall.


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/