Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The myth of the alcoholic writer

Everyone's heard of the alcoholic writers - Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald, the list goes on and on.  A lot of people out there seem to think that drinking alcohol somehow translates to writing brilliance.  As a person who enjoys drinking and enjoys writing, I thought I'd take it upon myself to clarify a few things about booze and books.

Personally, I find it almost pointless to try to write if I've had any significant amount to drink.  Sure, if I had a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, I can write perfectly well.  But I would never drink solely to improve my writing.  First of all, if I've had a lot of alcohol, I am easily distracted - which means that what would be, sober, a quick trip to Wikipedia to check the population of a city turns into a tour of every corner of the Internet when drunk.  Often, I'm more interested in an impromptu dance party than I am in writing a pivotal scene of my novel.

Last year (2009) during NaNoWriMo, I had a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label (that's Scotch, for non-drinkers) that was supposed to be my 'reward' for days when I wrote a lot.  I learned very quickly, though, that I should only drink it when I was done being productive; romantic as it sounds to write with a glass of Scotch and three clinking ice cubes in one hand, I found that I often wanted to take a nap after finishing a glass.

Maybe hard liquor doesn't affect you the same way.  Speaking honestly, though, does it really make your writing better?  Does it make it easier for you to write about difficult emotions?  Consider investing in a close friend instead.  Does it make you more prolific?  ...I don't believe you, unless you're mixing it with Red Bull (in which case you should try Red Bull without a depressant added!).

You're welcome to try it out yourself, but I think you'll find what many others have discovered - many great writers drank, but it was in spite of their heavy alcohol consumption, not because of it, that they succeeded.

1 comment:

  1. Check out the NY Times Sunday Book Review from Aug 1, where Geoff Nicholson, who writes the Psycho-Gourmet blog, muses on this very topic!