"Haven't you read those letters before?" my wife asks me, hand on hip.
Which is like telling Popeye, "Haven't you eaten spinach before?"
As a freelance writer, I need to read Hunter S. Thompson's letters periodically.
I need to read his angry missives to agents and publishers and eat his belief that the danger isn't running out of people who will publish your work, but being overwhelmed by publishers who would keep you slaving away on the edge of poverty.
I need to drink this: The freelancer's life is necessarily an adventure, and the moment you humorlessly mutter, "There must be an easier way to make a living," you have missed the point by a mile, and a year.
I need to inhale (and hold in my lungs) Thompson's drive to say something impertinent and true, his demonstrated preference to fail hideously rather than to succeed conventionally, his energy, energy, energy.
It turns out he took his own inspiration from a writer named Lionel Olay, who Thompson considered "the ultimate free-lancer."
"He wrote for Cavalier, the Free Press, and anyone who would send him a check. When the checks didn't come he ran grass to New York and paid his bills with LSD. And when he had something that needed a long run of writing time he would take off in his Porsche or his Plymouth or any one of a dozen other cars that came his way, and cadge a room from Mike Murphy at Hot Springs, or in his Brother Dennis's house across the canyon. … Now and then one of the New York editors would give him enough leeway to write what he wanted, and a few of his articles are gems. …"
Olay died of a stroke when he was about my age. I can't be doing that: I got a wife, I got a kid, I'm too old for LSD.
But I will, occasionally, furtively, drop a half a hit of HST.
Readers, what writers do you read over and over, and what are you trying to fix?