© William Pryor 2007
1) How much discipline is involved in writing a book? Did you have to develop a writing process – a time and place to write regularly?
Among other things, I write so that I might understand myself, so that my words might express one or other line of the narrative that is me, so that I can see myself. I write to find the universal in my individual experience. But this involves having ready access below the surface of the commonplace. As E.M. Forster said: “Only connect”, and he wasn’t talking dealers. Discipline is one of the essentials to connecting with the universal, to keeping this doorway both visible and knowable by my everyday brain. Creativity is an unforgiving battleground where inspiration, playfulness, integrity, doubt, confidence, ennui, vanity, humility and connectivity fight it out. Without discipline any of the many dogfights of this battle would turn me away from writing to sharpen the ten thousandth metaphorical pencil. Without the discipline of a regular time every day spent in front of a blank screen in my wonderful log cabin, I would not be able to nurture a confidence and a discrimination I find essential to the unpeeling that is writing about oneself; a confidence that out of the particular of my experience I can start to answer such simple questions as: what the hell is addiction? What is it about our relationship with the inert and physical?

2) Why did you decide to write the book? Was it a therapeutic experience or a more historical journey?
Nine Eleven put my latest entrepreneurial venture into the dust and I needed to earn some money so I took the unreadable, therapeutic and self-indulgent draft I’d written soon after getting straight in 1975 out of its drawer and rewrote it. My addiction always revolved around writing and music, so it was doubly good for me to make a book, a book well-written and as structurally interesting as a novel, one that would effect people’s lives. I knew I had succeeded when a publisher friend of mine who had no history of addiction was kept up all night reading it. So, in the end it was neither therapeutic nor historical but a journey of creativity and discovery of many of the themes that my conference Unhooked Thinking now explores.

To then adapt the book into a screenplay over a further two years has been extraordinary. The demands of filmic dramatic structure have meant the story has become a fiction, but oddly, in that fiction is to be found the more compelling truth that has attracted a respected British film director, plus producers, designers and the beginnings of a cast to the project.

3) You wrote your book based on events in the past. What processes did you use to try and restore those memories? Did you need to seek out old friends, places, music (even drugs) in order to recreate those emotions/experiences you wanted to write about?
The historical truth is a fiction. OK, I did whatever I could to find out what happened from surviving friends, family and media, but that is simply a skeleton upon which the story is draped. This is the unmasking of the myth, and, as Jean Cocteau put it: “Man seeks to escape himself in myth, and does so by any means at his disposal. Drugs, alcohol, or lies. Unable to withdraw into himself, he disguises himself. Lies and inaccuracy give him a few moments of comfort.” I wanted to go beyond a recreation of the past to discover meaning in the degradation of my addiction experience. The past is another country and not my prime interest. It’s more what the past can tell us about how we deal with the present moment.

4) How do you transfer what may be some very depressing, upsetting personal material, into something people want to read? How do you tell when you’re exposing too much?
The revelational process of writing such a memoir goes way beyond the anonymous 12 step confessional to a group of fellow addicts. My name is on the cover, my family and friends in the story – I had to do justice to this exposure, by avoiding blame games and petty larceny of their feelings. And yet the transparent telling of such a narrative, avoiding “war stories” and boasting of depths of degradation – when I get it right – touches and inspires the reader’s experience of being human, as many have told me. It is in the depths, the extremes that we can see our humanity.

5) Do you think drugs help or hinder the artistic process?
In the end they hinder. It is so easy to be deluded as to the quality of one’s work, as to how readily it connects, and entering other states through drugs, in the end, only makes it more difficult – for me – to discriminate between what works and what doesn’t. The development of the screenplay would have been impossible on drugs – from the moment when a well-known producer spent 40 minutes on the phone telling me I should give up all pretensions to writing a film to the email from a well-known director some 12 months later saying he really liked the latest draft – had I used drugs to smooth out the bumps of this ocean-crossing the script would not have the multi-layered depths it does.