Alcohol and Creativity

I walked into the “Meeting Place” tavern, wondering who I would meet today. I walked down to the end of the bar and grabbed a stool opposite a huge montage picture of several writers raising their favorite drinks. I wondered if they were drinking to each other’s health!

A fella about thirty years old took the stool next to me and looked up at the picture of the drinking writers.

“I wonder why so many great writers were hard drinkers. Did it help their creativity?” he said looking straight into my eyes.

“I’ve got a few ideas on that subject,” I commented.

“I’m a beginning writer. I’d like to hear your ideas.”

“I happen to be a writer too,” I said smiling.

“Shall we start off our conversation with a drink? What would you like?”

“I’d like a Gin Rickey, please.”

“That’s a coincidence, I like Gin Rickeys also. I pointed up to the picture, see, that’s Fitzgerald’s favorite drink.”

“How do you know the drink in his hand is a Gin Rickey?”

“Bartender, two Gin Rickeys here. Now, I happen to know most of the great writer’s favorite drinks!”

“Amazing! Can you list a few?”

“Well, there’s Hemingway’s Mojito, a macho drink. Then, like I said, Fitzgerald liked the Gin Rickey. He liked them because nobody could smell it on his breath! Steinbeck liked the Jack Rose, an apple brandy drink with grenadine. Faulkner liked the Mint Julep, a great southern cocktail. Shall I go on?”

“I’ve heard enough and like I said, amazing!”

We both took a sip of our drinks.

“Now, please tell me the common factors in hard drinking writer’s personalities,” the wannabe writer said eagerly.

“Well, the first thing you think of is that they had demons in their heads and they thought alcohol would help to exorcise them. Maybe, a lot of them did have demons from their personality traits and early life experiences. Then, you think of the Freudian explanations, the strong mother and weak father effects that cause trouble in the mind, and many writers had parents like that. Many suffer from feelings of inadequacy because maybe the next project won’t be as good as the previous one. And finally, the old bugbear of writer’s block, they can’t get their creativity going!”

“Wow! There’s a lot there to fall into the dumps about!”

“Those men, in that montage picture, created some of the most interesting and beautiful writing we have ever read, but did their drinking help the creative process?”

“It must have helped in some way, otherwise there wouldn’t have been so many writers that drank!” The wannabe looked at me quizzically.

“Stephen King once said, when asked:

“Do you drink?”

“Of course,” he said, “I’m a writer!”

“Hey, that’s funny!”

“I thought I’d lighten things up a bit. I’m getting a little dry!”

“Bartender, give us a couple more Gin Rickeys,” said the wannabe.

I took a long sip of my refreshing cocktail.

“Now, where was I? Oh yes, what does drinking do to help creativity?”

I had another sip and continued:

“When we are sober we tend to be very focused and this can blind us to novel possibilities and a broader, more flexible state of attention which could help us improve creative solutions.”

“I think I read somewhere that science has confirmed that altered states of consciousness, induced by alcohol, remove us from our usual way of seeing the world. This could improve our creative thought and generate new ideas.”

“Hey, you’re seeing the connections now!” I smiled.

My wannabe writer friend spoke up:

“I just thought of a funny joke. Here it is: Some writers drink because they want to be mentioned in “BOOZE WHO!”

“To continue,” I said seriously.

“So lets sum up, writing involves new ideas for stories, alcohol promotes “thinking out of the box”. Writing requires self-confidence, alcohol brings self-confidence, but it might be false. Writing is solitary work, alcohol assuages loneliness. Writing demands intense concentration, which can be stressful, alcohol relaxes.”

My cocktail glass was empty!

“I’m dry again,” I said, rubbing my throat.

“Two more Gin Rickeys please. I’ve just thought of another joke…the favorite drink of a writer is the next one!”

“That’s funny,” I said smiling, and continued:

“Now, lets look at the creative process itself. It is made up of: Thinking outside of the box, which means to think differently, unconventionally, from a new perspective, looking farther than the obvious. Then you get inspired by new ideas and you research them. Then you ruminate over your thought s and ideas and decide which to work on. Then you let the idea stew for a while. And then comes the perspiration of working hard to bring the idea to fruition.”

“Can you follow that process without drinking?”

“Of course you can.”

“What about writer’s block?”

“Well, creativity comes and goes because life’s stresses get in the way and block!”

We both drained our Gin Rickeys.

“Bartender, two more cocktails for the road,” said the wannabe.

“Writers get depressed often and that’s when the drinking increases. Science has shown that depression is amplified in writers because they tend to ruminate over their thoughts.”

“But rumination is one of the main points of the creative process!”

“That’s right, writers and other creative people tend to think more about their thoughts. All this thinking can lead to feelings of failure and hopelessness. And this is where the drinking relieves those bad feelings with false courage, but it does relax you for a while.”

We took long sips of our drinks.

“But all this writerly thinking can have a PLUS side, without indulging in drink, because once you sort out the depressing thoughts it shifts the mind to more positive thoughts and it helps the writer to even more motivation to do more creative work!”

Wannabe finished his cocktail and said, “Well, it’s been nice talking to you. I’ve got to go home now and finish my first novel.”

I drained my glass and said, “Well, my friend, with all the cocktails you’ve had you should be very CREATIVE tonight!”


When The Dream Became Dust!

Note-The American Dream—the ideal by which you have equal opportunity for your aspirations and goals to be achieved.

The freedom to achieve success with hard work and each according to their abilities to achieve success regardless of class or circumstances of birth.


After meeting Texas Guinan, the queen of speakeasies, I found myself again outside “The Meeting Place” tavern. I wondered who I would meet today!

I took a stool at the bar opposite a photo of the Dust Bowl in 1936. It showed farm equipment buried in dust. It was a depressing photo.

I ordered a beer and continued to study this tragic historical photo. A fella climbed onto the stool next to me. I studied him in the mirror behind the bar. He was a distinguished looking gentleman with dark hair, penetrating eyes and a mustache. He wore a tweed jacket over an open-collared shirt, dark trousers and black and white two-toned shoes.

He ordered a “Jack Rose” cocktail.

“I never heard of a drink like that,” I said.

“It’s an apple brandy based cocktail with lemon juice and grenadine. It’s my favorite drink,” said the fella smiling.

“Sounds good, I’ll have to try one later.”

We both took a sip of our drinks. I noticed he was looking sadly at the Dust Bowl photo.

“Must have been terrible times,” I commented.

“Yes, they were bad times, it was part of the Great Depression. I wrote a book about it. It was called, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

I drained my beer mug in one gulp!

“You’re John Steinbeck,” I stammered.

“Yes, the one and only,” he laughed.

“I’ve read the book and saw the movie with Henry Fonda.”

“It was a good adaptation of my book, but there was much more to the Depression, it was a complex time.”

I thought this was my chance to learn a few things about the 30’s by picking Steinbeck’s brain.

“Your book was a chronicle of the Depression. It was a damning commentary on the economic and social system that gave rise to the Depression. Did you do a lot of research about the plight of the Okies?”

“Oh yes, lots, I lived and worked with them and I made the journey with one family to California.”

“What is the interpretation of the title, “The Grapes of Wrath?”

“Well, the drought and dust destroyed a large part of agricultural production and farm jobs, which worsened the Depression. People were angry thus the wrath. The greed, self-interest and selfish ways of the landowners and banks in the 20’s came to a head. The grapes are a symbol of plenty and renewal. So, out of anger came renewal!”

“Bartender, give my friend here another “Jack Rose” and make one for me too.”

Steinbeck laughed, “We don’t drink to get drunk. We drink to enjoy life!”

“Hey, I like that saying. So, if I get a hangover it’s as a consequence not as a punishment!”

We both broke out in prolonged laughter.

“I liked the passage in your book when Grandpa says what he’s going to do when he gets to California and escapes the dust.”

“What passage is that?” said Steinbeck after taking a sip of the “Jack Rose”.

“ Well, Grandpa says, “I’m gonna pick me some grapes and I’m gonna squash ‘em on my face and let ‘em run down my chin. Then I’m gonna pick me a wash tub full of grapes and I’m gonna sit in ‘em, and scrooge around, and let the juice run down my pants!”

I took a sip of my cocktail and licked my lips.

“I think that is a very funny and sad passage.”

“Well, the book is about the struggles of men to accomplish a goal and something gets in the way like greed and self-interest, and then they get very angry.”

“I know the Depression started on October 29th, 1929 with the Stock Market Crash. But what led up to it?”

“Well, by mid 1929, companies were losing their worth on the stock market. All through the 1920’s people were buying stocks on 90% credit, margin buying they called it. An individual could buy a stock with 10% of the cost and the broker would lend them the other 90%. Then they would use the promise of the stocks future earnings to buy more stocks. The system was abused and huge sums of imaginary money existed only on paper! People became “paper” millionaires. A credit buyer would hold the stock until the price went up and sell it for a profit. But the bubble burst in October of ’29. The value of stocks went up faster than the value of the companies the stocks represented. Panic selling started and prices fell. The brokers wanted their money repaid, but nobody could repay their debt. The market crashed and stocks lost 50% of their value!”

“Wow! A horror story of greed and carelessness in the 1920’s!”

“That’s right, my friend, but the Crash wasn’t the only cause.”

“I know people started to get panicky and withdrew their money from banks.”

“Right, over 9000 banks failed. Deposits were uninsured and people lost their savings! Then people stopped buying things, production went down and many jobs were lost. Unemployment was over 25%!”

“I remember my father telling me about the “soup kitchens” that sprang up to help feed the unemployed.”

“Yes, most served only soup and bread, some gave out coffee and doughnuts. Government unemployment relief was nonexistent!”

We both drained our cocktails.

“Was there any policy at that time with Europe that was part of the cause?”

“Yes, there was. As businesses went under, the government created a tariff to help protect companies. But this backfired because it led to less trade with other countries along with retaliation.”

“And this is where your book, “The Grapes of Wrath” about the Dust Bowl comes in.”

“Right, in the 20’s, farmers over-cultivated and over-produced on their land with the new mechanized methods. So, in the 30’s, the drought came with winds that blew all the topsoil away! Farms were sold for no profit or nothing at all, and people deserted the land. Food production went down which added to the woes of the Depression!”

“Your book tells us a lot about the greed and generosity in this depressing upheaval.”

“Yes, greed perpetuates itself but so does kindness. I tried to show the Depression on a human level.”

“This discussion reminds me of something you said that I read somewhere.”

“Oh yes? What’s that?” Steinbeck said eagerly.

“You said and I quote:

“It has always seemed strange to me…that the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness and honesty, understanding and feeling, are connected with failure in our system.

And those traits we detest, sharpness and greed, meanness and acquisition, egoism and self-interest, are the traits of success.

And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.”

“I remember saying that. And that just about sums it up,” Steinbeck said as he walked out the door.

“Hello Suckers!”

When I was out for my daily constitutional (my walk), I found myself outside “The Meeting Place”. This was the tavern where I met the “Meditation Lady” the other day (see The Meeting Place blogs). I went in. I was walking around looking at all the pictures and photos of historical events and famous people. When I stopped in my tracks, in front of me was a beautiful lady perched on a baby grand piano. She was dressed in a long slinky white sequined gown reminiscent of the 1920’s.

I glanced behind me and the bar was filled with women and men in “Jazz Age” garb! The beautiful lady said, in a seductive voice, “Hello Suckers!” Then everyone in the tavern shouted, “Hello Texas!”

She looked at me and said, “Pull up a chair and stay a while. Give this gentleman a drink.”

The bartender brought me a martini mixed with orange juice.

“Are you a butter and egg man?”

“What’s that? I said mumbling.

“That’s my way of asking do you have money?” She laughed.

“A little,” I said, “Say, what is this place?”

“This, my friend, is Texas Guinan’s speakeasy, and you’re looking at Texas Guinan in the flesh!”

I took a sip of my cocktail.

“I remember reading about you. You made about a million dollars in 1926 selling illegal booze in Prohibition.”

“You got it in one, Darling,” she laughed.

“You used to have a show of beautiful fan dancers, didn’t you?”

“Yes I did. They used to dance  between the tables close to the patrons. So I told the gents to give the ladies a big hand, which they did, of course!”

I took another sip of my drink and said, “Is there a back way out of here, just in case?”

“Oh yes, I think of everything.”

I could hear jazz music in the background.

She spoke again, “This was a good business when Prohibition came in. Bootlegging made me and the gangsters rich!”

She laughed and started clicking her fingers to the music. It was Charleston music coming from the jukebox.

All of a sudden, a lovely flapper came out of nowhere and was dancing. She had bobbed hair with a feathered headband, a fringey short dress and a sexy pair of heels. It was delightful to watch!

A gangster looking guy wearing a black pin-striped zoot suit and a fedora hat, grabbed the flapper and took her off to a dark corner!

“If I remember my history, in 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified. This prohibited the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors. It was called “The Noble Experiment.”

“Yes, that’s right. We got raided regularly. It was the suppliers, not the drinkers, that the cops were after,” said Texas.

I took another sip of my cocktail. I wondered if it was “bath tub gin”.

“Those goofy women of the Temperance Union created the stink. They didn’t like the saloons, that they said were destructive to family life and the factory work discipline.”

“Oh, I get it, Prohibition was put in for the public good.”

There was a lot of noise behind me. Then the police came storming in the front door.

“This is a raid, everyone stay where you are!”

I ran out the back way! Wow! What a “Roaring 20’s” experience that was. The great thing was that I met one of the big names of the Prohibition era. Too bad I didn’t get to see the fan dancers!

Coincidently, Texas Guinan died in 1933, and on the day after her death the government repealed Prohibition!

The Ultimate Artistic Personality

This was the second meeting of Writer Dave’s Classic Book Club. My four members, LLC, Tom, Linda, and Marla, were seated along with me, Writer Dave, in a semi circle around the fire in my lounge.

“We have read two books by Ernest Hemingway, “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Garden of Eden”. Tonight we will discuss them and the author Hemingway.”

“He was quite a character in real life, wasn’t he?” said LLC.

“Yes, he was. I’d call him “The Ultimate Artistic Personality.”

“And what does the “Artistic Personality” consist of?” said Tom.

“Well, Hemingway was a study in contrasts, and that’s what the artistic personality is, “conflicting and contrasting,” I commented.

“What are some of Hemingway’s contrasts?” said Marla.

“Well, over confidence alternating with shaky self- esteem is one. Another is, he had periods of sharp creative thinking alternating with confusion and apathy. He would seek out different types of people to be his friends then he would retreat into self-absorption. He also was very moody at times alternating with great levity.”

“Hemingway liked his pleasurable living and alcohol, didn’t he?” said Linda.

“That’s right, and he had a tendency toward extremes in his love life coupled with marital failure.”

I took a sip of my coffee and continued,

“What about his style of writing?”

It’s a simple, crisp, clipped, and very clean style,” said Marla.

“Right, he didn’t use many adjectives or adverbs. There are silences in his prose, that the reader has to fill in. This might help you understand the story more.”

“I always thought of Hemingway as the epitome of machismo,” said LLC.

“Yes, he was very macho, but, here’s the contrast again, he did have a soft, tearful side.”

Tom was smiling when he said, “Thinking about his heavy drinking, it reminds me of one of his quotes: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut!”

We all laughed.

“Who will give us a short summary of “The Sun Also Rises?”

“It’s an autobiographical account of an American journalist living in Paris. It’s about the character, Jake, who suffered a war wound that left him impotent, and his love for Brett, and their escapades as the “Lost Generation.”

“Very good, LLC. Now, what about the themes?”

“Well, the characters seemed truly lost and aimless. WW1 ended traditional notions of morality, justice and faith. Life seemed to have no meaning to them as they wandered Paris,” said Linda.

“So, there was the loss of the macho image after WW1. The prewar ideal of the brave soldier was gone after they huddled in trenches being bombarded. They were just lucky, not brave, to survive,” said Tom.

Marla spoke up, “The heavy drinking was also a theme. They drank to escape reality and to increase their excitement.”

“All very good comments. Now, what are some of the meanings we can take away from this story?”

“What I came away with was, “Live life to the fullest” even if you feel lost. It doesn’t matter much what you do, as long as you have had your life. If you haven’t had that, what have you had,” said LLC.

“On the other hand, if you live your life flippantly, you have to pay the price. If we don’t value things, we have to pay for it,” said Tom.

We all took a break for coffee and biscuits.

Marla and Linda said they have dabbled in writing, so I spouted another Hemingway quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and BLEED!” Now days it is a word processor.”

“Now lets discuss the other book we’ve read. “The Garden of Eden”, published posthumously and unfinished by Hemingway. The book was edited. This book is EXPLOSIVE Hemingway! It is EROTIC Hemingway!’

I let that statement sink in, the members were silent for a moment.

“Who wants to give us a short summary?”

“This book is about female desire unleashed to control a man called David, and how he breaks free to take control of himself again through his writing.”

“Very good, Tom. Now, how does the woman, Catherine, control David?”

“She uses the “ménage a trois” as a way of control. This is a two women and one man living arrangement,” said LLC.

“Anything else?” I prompted.

“Yes, Catherine wanted to control David’s writing, which was his core being, by telling him only to write “their” story, their Garden of Eden. She tried to destroy him by burning “his” stories,” said Marla.

“Now, how did David break free?”

“He broke free by re-writing “his” stories of Africa. His boyhood adventure with his father was a story Catherine knew nothing about and she was jealous of “his” story,” said Linda.

“And lastly, what was the ending of the story?”

“David ends up with Marita, the other woman in the “ménage a trois”. She understands David and his writing. She becomes the “perfect writer’s wife”, a woman eager to please and to arrange his life seamlessly, and with no needs or desires of her own. No interference with his writing,” said LLC.

“Now, what did we learn from this story?”

“Well, we learnt about the tragic and darker sides of hedonism, the belief that pleasure is the most important thing in life,” said Tom.

“Anything else?”

Linda spoke up, “Catherine’s bisexual ménage a trois was a way to control David sexually and every other way, including his writing.”

I took a sip of my coffee and said:

“In summing up, another view of this novel would be the concerns and themes of the writer. It is about ART, about creating, and about the craft of writing and the struggle of the writer to be true to his art. David had to write “his” African life story to remake himself. He had to abandon the frivolous story that Catherine wanted him to write only about them.”

The members pondered that statement for a minute.

“I’m ending with a Hemingway quote that applies to the protagonist in this story.



Before Linda left, she said, “I hope there are DVD’s of these two books, I would like to get them.”