Alcohol is another offender. I recently read that, contrary to popular belief, Ernest Hemmingway did not imbibe while he worked. “Hemingway was notoriously fond of drinking,” wrote Chantal Martineau in an article about Papa’s drinking habits on the Food Republic website, “but he refrained from indulging while writing.”[i] I also refrain from it while working because, frankly, alcohol and coherent thoughts don’t mix. And the aftereffects of alcohol, at least for me, can sometimes hobble clear thinking for days after, even if I’ve only drunk a single glass of wine. Alcohol has a tendency to suppress creativity and spread a pall of flatness over my mood like a three-day marine layer over a southern California beach. So I strive to keep the cork tightly inserted into the bottle, only popping it when I know I’ll be taking a sabbatical from creative or analytical thinking for the next day or two.
I’ve also found that over-the-counter medications like diphenhydramine can upset the hay wagon of creativity. When I take two Benadryl at bedtime, I may wake up the next morning with what Mary and I call a “Benadryl hangover,” the lethargy and heavy head left over after the medication has done its job. Antihistamines and other cold-fighting medications have the same effect. I now refuse to take any medications whatsoever unless I’m dying from a sinus infection and my snoring causes Mary to consider shutting me up with a pillow placed strategically over the offending soft palate. Not good news. Speaking of which . . .
I also had to give up listening to the news on the radio and watching it on TV. For me, no news is definitely good news because I focus much better without the constant barrage of negativity, stupidity, and petty judgmentalism so pervasive in today’s news outlets, especially around election time. One day, as I helped my father-in-law in his shop, he turned on the radio to the local talk radio station. Hour after hour the hosts flung insidious poo at my addled brain. The incisive language, the ruthless attacks against the Administration, and the fear-based ads for gold, identity theft protection, and male enhancement products did little to encourage my hope for a kinder, gentler America. Quite the opposite: it made me want to escape to an undisclosed offshore tax haven in the Caribbean where grace is easier to come by.
Now I get my news by reading it rather than listening to it or watching it, a throwback to slower, more reasonable times. In that way I can moderate what goes into my head so as to enhance what comes out through my fingers. The noise issuing from the electronic boxes is nothing more than just that: noise. William James once said, “Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life.” And what’s more lovely than thinking about the glory of God rather than the baseness of man? A calmer, more rational mind makes for focused, more inspired writing. I may not be totally up to speed on current events, but my life is definitely less frenetic and more focused on what really matters: loving God, loving others, and playing Parcheesi with my six-year-old daughter.
“Thinking is the hardest work there is,” said Henry Ford, “which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” Because my life now requires me to be constantly on my game—to engage in it, as Henry Ford said—it’s become imperative for me to start the day in communion with God in His Word at the breakfast bar, transition to communion with God and His words breathed through me at the computer, and end the day in communion with God and my family playing ladder golf in the back yard. And if staying on my game—remaining sober and vigilant—means becoming a teetotaler, then so be it. The devil’s in the details. And in the stimulants, the over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, the talk show drivel, the news, and the byproducts of fermentation. By staying clear-minded, I get into the adversary’s head instead of him getting into mine, and there’s no better way to subjugate a roaring lion than to yank out all of his teeth.
Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes
[i] Chantal Martineau. “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Ernest Hemingway’s Drinking Habits.” Food Republic.com. 30 October 2012. Food Republic. 3 September 2014. http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/10/30/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-ernest-hemingways-dr