Writing and Alcohol

People assume that because I am a writer, I’m also a heavy drinker. Most of them aren’t writers. When I tell people that I don’t drink, they then assume that I’m in a 12-step program. That’s not meant as shade on people who are sober. Good on you. I’m not moralizing about alcohol, either, and have no problems with people who drink responsibly. It’s just weird that people have these stereotypes in their heads about writing and alcohol. Drinking is so normative in society as a whole, and thanks to authors like Hemingway and Faulkner, somehow tied to the craft of writing.

When I posted this on Twitter, it blew up. I was amazed at the number of authors who, like me, don’t drink at all. A lot of them, like me, have health issues exacerbated by alcohol. Many just don’t like the taste, the way it makes them feel, or the whole bar/party/intoxicant culture. Most don’t understand how anyone can be functional, let alone creative, while drunk.

Writing and Alcohol

I have to wonder how much of this goes hand-in-hand with the myth that one must suffer for art. The romantic notion of the tortured genius in full effect. People with substance abuse issues are clearly suffering. If they’re not drinking to ease the pain, the effects of alcohol on their health and behavior will bring them pain eventually. The association of drinking with having fun has to tie into that as well.

The truth is that writers are more likely to be drinking coffee or tea. It’s pretty evenly divided, based on responses to that tweet, with coffee holding a slight lead. Stimulants, rather than depressants, are more conducive the writing process. While too much of anything is bad for you, consuming copious amounts of caffeine isn’t exactly self-destructive. That’s not as colorful an image as the disheveled author slowly killing himself to create his masterpiece, but is that really a bad thing?

one response for Writing and Alcohol

  1. Delthrien says:

    I suspect Kerouac did more than a little bit to color the perceptions of writers…

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