Monday, November 7, 2016

Upon the six year and one day anniversary of my sobriety---How my writing was changed

It’s sort of interesting to me how my writing was affected by my alcoholism and later by my recovery…but not really—interesting is a funny word. I wrote my first books of short stories, when I was deep in the depths of it, my and they received reviews such as….

This collection of short takes features a gaggle of dysfunctional characters with a penchant for booze, sex and drugs. A competent wordsmith, Gager has afforded us an unrelenting look at the seamy side of city life. We stare in fascination at these characters as we would a particularly repulsive lifeform that might appear when we turn over a large rock.

I often slid out from under that rock to make guest appearances in life, but the writing glorified the lifestyle I was living. I was still doing ok, and was yet to hit my bottom, but I was actively working toward it.

As for the writing piece: People will always romanticize the struggling, tortured artist. Truth is those people feel a lot. They feel a lot of pain and writing comes from feelings, not necessarily pain. Myth broken: You don’t have to be tortured, you have to willing to work your craft. Sylvia Plath was a fine crafted poet. We all know her, more often than not, because she killed herself.  Charles Bukowski? He wrote every day. He had great output, of which I can guarantee, he was not as drunk as he wrote that he was. As the saying goes, “we write what we know”.

I wrote a poem after my first AA meeting that was called Missteps, an odd claustrophobic poem set in its own compartment—an AA  meeting, jumps off the page and demands an audience. The protagonist  begins with honesty and ends in a church basement seeking a heaven of  sorts. In between, his door to the past swings open to addiction and its metaphors.

When I raised my hand
told a gray room the reasons
I started drinking, I wanted
to start again immediately.
Told people, whose faces looked like
The End of the World, the truth.

By the time The Shutting Door was published, I was four years sober, but half the poems were written before that. I was becoming clear headed, seeing life on life’s terms.  I was no longer willing to write about what I consider now to be character flaws of the Fourth Step kind…ego, self-centeredness, relentless sex. (not that I ever considered myself a sex addict, more of a feel good addict). So people now wrote reviews which sounded like:

Gager's trademark gritty-romantic tone but moves in new directions of form. Gager's control over his subject matter is impressive and his contrasts are breathtaking.

Today I write what I believe is closest to the truth…my truth. I’ve completed two novels which are a miracle. In fact, this entire journey has been a miracle and we all are so lucky to have a solution for the symptoms of our disease and to have help available, if wanted. I found it and thanks to God, I was given hope when I was desperate.

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