Scribbles from the scribe

Drinking and Writing

“Write drunk; edit sober.”
-Ernest Hemingway

Like to drink? Think it makes you better at things like dancing, singing, flirting? In the case of writers, many think a drink (or twelve) sparks and inspires great work. The research, and the results, are uncertain.

One certainty is the documented love affair between writers and their intoxicating inspiration. “According to one study, 71 percent of prominent 20th-century American writers at least flirted with alcoholism” (Palmer). A shocking statistic when compared to only 8% of the general population abusing alcohol (Palmer).

Is it the drinking or the inherent personal characteristics that constitute great writers? Many noted 20th-century greats suffered from mental anguish or disorders and tended to be loners or on the social fringe (Palmer). A glass by the desk might merely provide a confidence-building  elixir that a talented author needs to shut out the world and get the first words down.

There’s no proof that drinking actually accelerates skill at the craft or that drunken scribing produces quality writing. “Many psychologists believe that thinking you’re drunk, rather than the drunkenness itself, may increase verbosity and lower inhibitions” (Palmer).

Increasing wordiness and writing whatever comes to mind doesn’t necessarily mean good writing, it simply means more writing. I’ve fell victim to the notion that a glass of wine or two increased my creativity and productiveness. In the light of day, and sometimes with a pounding headache, you may read something you wrote and realize you finally captured what you were trying to say sober but just couldn’t. You may also find pages of poorly constructed verse, salvageable only by a lengthy rewrite.

Regardless of the research, romanticizing the relationship between cocktails and writing is, well, intoxicating.

How to Drink Like Your Favorite Authors

Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers

Great Drinkers Shot Glasses

Palmer, Brian. Does Alcohol Improve Your Writing? Slate. 21 August 2011.
Sabastian, Michael. Does drinking help inspire your work? PR Daily. 21 August 2011.




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