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!”


10 thoughts on “Alcohol and Creativity

  1. I don’t know about creativity, but I personally think that the fledgling writer who takes to alcohol as a path to becoming a better writer is doomed to failure. Alcoholism is a disease that can be conquered even by those who are affected with the gene. There’s is a matter of choice unlike cancer. It is also interesting that great creative minds as Ernest Hemingway.was a heavy drinker and suffered terribly from depression that finally destroyed him. Great blog!

  2. My friend Larry said it all. As a non-drinker I can say that I believe drinking has nothing to do with creativity. If anything, I believe it dulls the thinking process and causes a lot of typing errors that are not caught by the drinking proof reader. Try writing sober. See what happens.

  3. Ah! the demon drink. Sometimes a little tipple helps the grey cells unravel, but of course too much unravelling and doesn’t help at all. I like to unravel now and again and I have no idea if the writing is better or worse. I leave that to others to decide. Thanks Dave, enjoyed this as usual. Hope you enjoyed In A Word: Murder too.

  4. I have a lovely image of a load of sozzled writers at 10.00 in the morning! I am surprised anyone gets any writing done at all :0

    I am impressed that you know the favourite tipples of the greats, Dave. Good one.

  5. Well, I’ve written three full-length books (all on Amazon Kindle, under my real name), totalling almost exactly a third of a million words, and not one of them written sober. Edited sober, but written UTI. As someone else said, too much and it doesn’t work. One bottle of red wine works fine for me. (An evening, I mean, not an hour!)

    I’ll be following your blogs, Dave. Good stuff, I can see!

  6. Another great story. It doesn’t matter what
    you do to be creative. Its just good that you
    are creative. A lot of people don”t take the
    time to do it.

  7. Great story Dave, brought a smile to my face. Some writers fire up well on alcohol, others use music- each writer has their own muse mechanism. As long as you keep belting out good work and your liver doesn’t cave in, don’t change a thing : -)

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