The Truth About Drinking & Writing

The truth is that I don’t know very many hard truths about drinking and writing, or even exactly why writers tend to drink. That said, I will say that many of the learned explanations I’ve read don’t show much understanding, let alone truths either.

No less an authority than Psychology Today included gems like:

the drive for success of every kind

the hunger for prestige, fame, and money

Naw, that ain’t it…

Anyway, I do have some ideas (better ideas than those, anyway).

Crafting the Buzz

You’re a wordsmith, that’s great. And, if you drink when you write you also have to be a buzzsmith (yes, I did just invent that word) because too much alcohol, and this is news to no one, blunts perception, true sensitivity and the ability to articulate ideas.

But, what about just enough alcohol? Well, that’s a different story. I contend that, for me, just enough alcohol, just as it facilitates some conversations, facilitates access to ideas and word combinations that may well be elusive in a state of total sobriety.

The general accepted idea is that judgment is the first faculty to be affected by alcohol. But, think about what judgment can mean when applied to writing. It’s easy for judgment to become self-judgment, and self-judgment is very effective in closing down new and novel ways to think about things. Since when has that helped the writing process? There’s a chance that just enough alcohol can open the very doors that need to be open for the ideas to flow their best.

But there’s something else, too.

A Foil Against Writing-Induced Loneliness

I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me how I can spend so much time alone and writing, owing to my basically chatty nature. It’s not only difficult but it runs against some of my most basic instincts to be around other people and talking. When my office is quiet, and it’s dark outside, my first impulse is to call someone on the phone. But, if there’s something I want to write I need to replace that temptation for a while. I start with a snack and follow it with a drink. If I make good progress, I may have another drink, but that’s it.

The law of diminishing returns sets in after two drinks.

Is a Rum & Coke So Different From a Xanax?

When I get home from a long day and a hundred miles or more of driving and I need to write, I’m also going to want a drink. That’s the just the truth without a proclamation of pride or shame. I admit it’s an ongoing balancing act. I admit that I have also written effectively when sober as a proverbial judge. And, sadly very close friends of mine have had their lives ended by the ravages of alcoholism.

So Where Does that Leave Writers and Alcohol?

Writing, like living, is an art. There’s simply no rule book that governs the creative process. I can only say that I seek balance. I want to write. I want to see people and enjoy their company. I want to have a couple drinks and enjoy people and writing sometimes even more when I do without.

All of that said, I want to do all of this safely, in a way that protects me and everyone else. That can be the hard part but it’s also the most important part of all.

Enjoy & create, but take good care of yourself while you’re doing it.

 

The Truth About Drinking & Writing

The value of faking optimism

This article is pretty interesting. It’s one of the few I’ve read to focus on the idea that even if you don’t feel optimistic it’s beneficial to act optimistic. The article asks reader to channel their inner Tiggers rather than succumb to their usual trend toward their inner Eeyore.

Two of the more intriguing elements of the article are the ideas that the way people walk and the way they imagine themselves can be so important to a person’s sense of positive and negative outlooks. I usually prefer to walk quite quickly when my interest is getting from one place to another. When I notice my shadow I see a figure that’s canted forward slightly and moving briskly. It sometimes feels like a happy gait but more often it just feels purposeful.

Imagining myself is really tricky. After thinking about it for a time I realized that I usually imagined ideas, actions and things. I want to work on my book or practice my golf swing. The “I” in both of those sentences and thoughts feel a bit less significant than golf and writing. The article quotes Jeff Wise from Psychology Today:

He states, “People do transform their lives, every day. But for the most part they don’t do it by relying on willpower. The key, it turns out, is to simply start behaving like the person you want to become. Instead of wondering, What should I do?, imagine your future, better self and ask: What would they do? This approach works because of the rather surprising way that our brains form self-judgments. Numerous experiments have demonstrated that when it comes to forming beliefs about our own character and proclivities, we don’t peer inward, as you might expect; instead, we observe our own external behavior. If we see ourselves carrying out a particular action—whatever the actual motivation—our self-conception molds itself to explain that reality.”

I confess I find this to be a little tricky. It’s easy to imagine myself practicing golf but it’s harder to imagine myself as the better golfer that would result from lots of practice without putting in the practice first.

Rather than focusing on my future golf-self or my future writer-self I tend to focus on the next step. There’s an old saying that goes, “What’s the most important step on the journey to the of the mountain? The next one…” But, maybe the next step focus doesn’t do enough to develop optimism? Miguel Cervantes wrote, “Love not what you are, but what you may become.” It may be that you have to envision your future and better self first and then imagine what that future self would do. That seems like a more inspiring approach…

The value of faking optimism