This came up tangentially in comments to the previous post. Seems like most of us on this park bench do a bit of drinking. A lot of people who are not writers do their bit of drinking. The curiosity is, does boozing enhance creative work, detract from creative work, or simply have no effect worth mentioning? I will make myself the case in point and welcome other case studies.
I think I have a problem with alcohol, which might be just a cutesy way of saying I’m an alcoholic. Since successfully reaching maturity, which came rather late in my life, I am never drunk, in the sense of falling down, muttering, what the hell did I do drunk. I rarely reach the condition commonly known as tipsy. Maybe I have appreciable capacity. I don’t like being drunk, I don’t like hangovers, and I avoid them successfully. I know exactly where the line is drawn between feeling at ease and sedated, and shit faced. For me, it is one bottle of wine at one time (rather than spread out over the day), or, and or is the important connector, three maybe four substantial tumblers of liquor, or four large beers. Below that amount, tranquility, over that amount, stupid and headaches. The wisdom of age allows one to usually choose tranquility over stupid.
I drink alcohol everyday that I am not so sick that it tastes bad. I have been doing that everyday for at least fifty years. A miracle of genetics has kept my liver intact. In all ways, marijuana is a much better path to tranquility and creativity than alcohol, and I have inhaled the smoke from many pounds of that fine vegetation, but again the wisdom of age has shown me that I would not enjoy prison life, so now I drink instead of smoke, although the latter is better than the former in all ways, except taste, of course. (Let us save hypocrisy for another day.)
I have over the years written under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. The result was always the literary equivalent of a hangover. It seemed quite fine to be dancing on the table and spinning your pants over your head at the time, but sober it is just stupid and embarrassing. That’s what I ended up with when writing drunk. It sure seemed wonderful at the time. But it was always, without exception, embarrassing shit.
I am saying that I do not believe that alcohol stimulates or enhances creativity. To the contrary, I think it is a detriment. I do my work in the mornings, when my head is clear and free. I drink only in the evenings, not counting a glass of wine with lunch, but by early afternoon my work day is usually at an end.
The list of notorious alcoholic writers is very long. Here are the more notorious, the really and truly drunks, in random order: Raymond Carver, Jean Stafford, Truman Capote, Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Herman Melville, Jack London, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Robert Lowell, Eugene O’Neill, John O’Hara, O. Henry, Conrad Aiken, John Berryman, Edmund Wilson, and of course, Ernest Hemingway. I mention him last because he always rose early and worked clean and fresh, not starting his infamous drinking until the workday ended after lunch. Far as I can determine, none of these writers wrote anything that stuck, anything memorable, when they were shit faced.
I like the taste of most alcoholic drinks, and why not, since much of it is sugar. I drink about half the flavor and half for the tranquility, the relaxation, the winding down part of it. (Again, marijuana would accomplish the same effect with far less damage, but … let’s save the hypocrisy.) I am going to drink until it kills me, or until I die first. But I am never going to write when I’m drinking. I am of the opinion that alcohol is not conducive to creativity, but a detriment.
And what say you?