The Daniel Day Lewis Method of Writing

19 Feb

Here’s a question for you:


An addictive substance yesterday

Your hero has a cocaine habit.  In order to appreciate his/her viewpoint, do you seek out the drug and take it as part of the writing process, or do you simply imagine what it might be like when you write about it?  Do you talk to known users as part of your research?  Equally, when it comes to preparation, do you simply read about it in the press and make it up, or do you try it yourself?

Drugs are one of those things that are illegal, but a lot of people participate in – hence my question, which really boils down to this:  for the sake of authenticity, is it important for you as an author, to know about what you’re writing about in detail?  And if so, where do you draw the line?

It’s possible to become a drunk for a night, or a week as part of your research.  You can even sleep rough if you want.  You can develop a cigarette habit until you cough, and know what it’s like to hack one up every morning.  All this is perfectly legal.  Then we come to the illegal – joints, lines and injections, each increasing in addictive qualities and physical effect.  If you try something once and don’t like it, what do you do if a regular user tells you ‘you gotta get a habit man, to appreciate it’?

Then there’s the question of murder. Obviously I’m not advocating killing others in the name of authenticity, but is it something you might consider?

The question is open to the floor: how far are you prepared to go?


7 Responses to “The Daniel Day Lewis Method of Writing”

  1. Karen February 19, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    I guess it comes down to how well you feel you can write about cocaine and addiction w/o having experienced it. Similarly, I often engage in debate about whether a female writer can write from a male perspective convincingly (and vice versa). Depending on the day of the week, I can be on either side of that debate 🙂

    Regarding murder, I think we’ve all probably experienced emotion that lead us to at least fantasize about murdering someone, so not sure if that’s a fair comparison.

    I guess with enough research you could write about any character’s attribute, but I do wonder if you might attain additional insight by the actual experience. For example, if you’ve never taken a sip of an alcoholic beverage in your life, would you be able to write about how it tastes or feels? Would you be able to write about being drunk? Now imagine the difference in your writing if you *have* been drunk.

    I think I’m with Daniel Day Lewis on this one, and since I’m not going to try cocaine, I’d probably choose something else.


  2. misslynn2 March 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Just to let you know that I have awarded you the Sunshine Award!


    • Ferret Files March 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Thank you SO much! I guess that means I have to shelve the writing for an hour and pass it on. I’d love to pass it back to you, but that would create a loop in the fabric of space/blogtime, from which there is no easy escape… 🙂


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