Why many writers drink

Originally published at: Why many writers drink | Boing Boing

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At least, if you understand rationality like I do.


Lots of people drink to excess. Writers and other artists get away with it.


“Why are writers, more than other artists, so willing to take that risk?”

Because sculptors who sculpt wasted waste a lot of marble, musicians who show up drunk for a gig get fired, and drugs that limit hand eye coordination limit artists’ hand eye coordination. But sometimes you say/write interesting things while drunk, and you can edit the drunk dross out and save the pearls.

I think viewing it as a rational choice or even Faustian bargain is unhelpful. Writing is a stressful often unrewarding profession. People self‐medicate to help cope in hard times. He doesn’t mention all the work that is forever unwritten because some great writers curtailed their lives. If substance use is making your life challenging, it’s worth trying pathways of treatment, conventional or otherwise, that might make your life better.


I think it’s just another trope in bad need of being tossed in the garbage heap. I’m a writer who doesn’t drink (other than a beer once in a great while), and I know plenty of others the same. A few famous authors have made it de rigueur to think authors drink when they write. If I did, I’d either fall asleep or get such a blindingly bad headache I couldn’t write Jack Daniels, let alone jack shit.


And, you know… they write about it. A lot.


Sometimes it’s the legend itself that draws new writers into adopting the “drunken writer way”, and sometimes it’s just that hanging around a lot of drunks lets you easily experience live writing prompts.

Let’s be fair; the kind of people that toxically masculine writers were writing for/about dropped into that category.

Fast And Furious Brian Oconner GIF by The Fast Saga


*Charles Bukowski drunkenly enters the chat, swearing at prostitutes.


jackie chan GIF
And as far as drinking and martial artist, drunken man or drunken monkey stylists only pretended to be drunk, the movies are not historical documents.


I think this is the key, really. It’s an image and we hear about the famous ones who drank a lot because they wrote about it a lot. The image is largely self-wallowing, if you ask me. “Woe is me, I live in my inherited house and see all the problems of the world that you don’t”.

A lot of those famous writers were also alive when everyone drank way more than people in general do now. Prohibition did not come out of a vacuum. Everyone used to drink what we would now consider a blistering bender on a daily basis. Prohibition was terrible and a mind-bendingly bad thing for so many reasons, but it was a sincere reaction to a situation that we no longer really appreciate.


Good article, and I’d add that the fact that so many very famous writers were also very famous drinkers just perpetuates the syndrome. People emulate their heroes thus writers have the green light to drink to excess from the very start as part of the fake it till you make it process.


I got the drinking down pretty good, now the writing, that’s another story.


I bet one drank because she was stuck in a house on Lake Geneva with a bunch of insufferable men. /s


This is why we shouldn’t allow dirty filthy degenerate addicts to make art.

/S but poe


Exactly. I work in the alcohol biz and people regularly refer to Prohibition as the source of many modern regulatory and quality issues and a wicked example of regulatory overreach (you’d be shocked to learn that it’s dominated by cis-het white conservative men with gobs of cash). The before and after per-capita consumption is really hard to grasp. Add into that the fact that men tend to be heavier abusers, were almost always the sole breadwinner and there was zero infrastructure for treatment beyond jail, it’s also really clear why it was a women-led movement. I don’t know if there were better options short of full prohibition, but a 13 year sacrifice seems pretty mild.

Exactly. Privilege is probably the most reliable indicator of a career as a writer. Especially in prior eras where women and minority voices were suppressed.


[citation needed]

Here, let me introduce you to some musicians…


Musicians are only addicts when it’s heroin though I thought. Or that was the vibe when I was young.

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And coffee?

dave grohl coffee GIF


another story? see you’ve already got the writing thing down pat.


Same! I mean, I drink, but not to write (and definitely not a lot by any means). I learned early on that even one drink while I was writing fucked up the whole process for me. It seemed to introduce more doubt than it got rid of. Sometimes, I’ll have a pint and do a bit of writing in a pub, but even that’s mostly just an excuse to get out of the house.

Now this, on the other hand… :coffee: :coffee: :coffee: