Sean H. Doyle is the author of This Must Be The Place (2015), a memoir in fragments. The book received praise from the Chicago Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Gawker, and Poets & Writers. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, PANK, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, WhiskeyPaper, and other venues, including on his own website, which offers a wonderfully overwhelming and oft-updated look into his brain. Doyle also makes music as shenxian. He lives in Brooklyn.
Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?
Did the nuns ask me to confess some character flaw? I don’t normally tell people—or penguins—that I write. In my experience, folks who offer that up right away are usually welders or CEOs in disguise. I’d probably answer by telling them that I write about my inability to unsee the world and the things that happen around me or to me or inside of me.
Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?
Maybe the audience would find my work interesting because my work doesn’t apologize at all? Drugs and alcohol are a part of every life, even those lives seemingly free of imbibing. My life has not been perfect, will never be perfect, and my experiences with drugs and alcohol have been important to my understanding of my past/current/future self and how I fit into and out of the world around me.
What led you to write about drugs and alcohol in the first place?
“Write what you know” is a good place to start and start again.
How would you describe the way that drugs function in your work, whether in terms of thematic concerns or the choices you make about how to craft a narrative? Do you think there are things that you wouldn’t be able to explore as successfully if drugs weren’t in your writing arsenal?
Well, because I write nonfiction/memoir, building a narrative structure is a little different. I don’t get to make shit up and create these fantastic worlds so I do my best to write about things that have happened with little-to-zero exposition. Drugs helped me learn—when I was using them—that everyone is having their own experiences, even when those experiences were shared. In that regard, drugs have been an excellent tool to help me find my voice/style/whatever. Back when I still used drugs and drank excessively, I used to try to write—try being the key word—but none of what I thought was brilliant was worth a damn in the light of the next day or even the next hour. Drugs and booze didn’t help me be a better writer, they helped me see what a shitty writer I was. This doesn’t mean I believe great work cannot be created with drugs or booze as a tool, it just means that did not work for me in any way. Kind of hard to remember some great poem that flashed in your mind while crawling on the roof of a car dealership high on peyote. At least for me.
What do you personally find most interesting about how drugs work in your writing, and where do you see that interest leading you in future projects?
So many of the things I mine in my writing or the things I look for in the writing of others are based in failures of some cosmic sort, misconnections, misperceptions, moments wherein a life goes into a place of shifting. Drugs and alcohol lower the walls for so many, opening up another path to fuck around on and make mistakes to learn and grow from. I’m of the belief that the deal with being human and alive rests so much weight on the idea of being good and kind and angelic, and that’s great and beautiful, but there is beauty and magick present within making poor choices and so many of my poor choices were made under the influence. Because of those poor choices, I have seen and experienced some things that I needed to see and experience, to get here, to be this person that I am now and to be able to do the work that I do, and seeing as how I have made so many poor choices, I have a lot of material to wring out to get dry, if you know what I mean.
BONUS QUESTION: Let’s hope that This Must Be the Place gets made into a major motion picture. What song do you fantasize about hearing as the credits roll?
“Success,” by Iggy Pop. Where the fuck is my Chinese rug?