Welcome, to the very first Thoughtful Thursday Question, a new weekly series where I answer any question and spin the answer to relate to writing. Today’s question:
Alcohol or drugs, do they enhance or hinder your writing process?
This one is a hard one for me to answer, mainly because I have little experience writing or developing my stories under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I honestly can’t imagine alcohol being super conductive to generating substantive ideas— or allowing you to remember those ideas once you’ve become sober. Yet some of our most celebrated authors were known to be alcoholics. Edgar Allan Poe, best known for his gothic tales of mystery and the macabre, had reoccurring stints of alcoholism, but it’s hard to say whether or not it was during these times of influence that he received the inspiration for the best of his work. Then there’s Jack Kerouac, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway… The extensive list makes it hard to argue against the benefit of alcohol when stimulating creativity.
Which brings me to actually question the nature of inspiration, and whether or not it does flow freer under the influence or clear of it. If we consider the reasons behind an alcoholic’s relationship with alcohol, and the status of their lives—is it a struggle?—we could contribute inspiration as a product of hard times. A hard life makes for interesting writing, after all, and can lead to introspection of societal issues and personal insight. Struggle and conflict is often something we are drawn to read. We find an individual’s life story interesting when they have experienced, and overcome, hardship. Happy endings are a plus, but tragic lives are just as captivating—Romeo and Juliet, anyone?
In the study “Uncorking the Muse: Alcohol Intoxication Facilitates Creative Problem Solving,” psychologists recruited 40 males and got them a little tipsy. Then they gave them a little test to analyze their problem solving abilities under the influence of vodka. What they found? A moderate amount of alcohol was actually helpful in solving the problems in more creative ways. On the other hand, when they were tested on memory, you can imagine the results were not as impressive.
So we have some research that gives us a positive look on creativity and alcohol, but, baring in mind the limitations of the study, we can also assume that this would not be true for everyone.
As with everything, creativity and stimulating our imagination is an individual’s journey. I don’t think it would be easy to give a general answer on whether or not alcohol and drugs hinder or help a writer. This is something we must learn for ourselves. Personally, when alcohol and I mix, there seems to be an element of chance to whether or not the relationship leads to creative thought, or a rosy night where everything seems funny.
I’ll have to give a shout out to my brother for this question, which came up during a conversation over a pint of Guinness.
Now what I’d like to know is whether or not you agree with me. What do you think? Is it better to writer sober or with a cup of wine on the table? Let me know in the comments below.
Next week’s question: cafe or library, people or silence: where is the best place to write? A look on productivity and the effect of noise towards focus.
Do you have a question you’d like me answer? Each Thursday I’ll be posting a question and answer that relates to writing and creativity. I would love to answer your questions, silly or serious. Message me, or drop your question in a comment on the precious week’s blog post and maybe yours will be the one I answer next!