The Art of Drunkenness: How Writing Drunk Makes You More Creative

It’s vodka and poetry, whiskey and prose, the kind of drunkenness that tastes like love and feels like fiction. A bartender, a big man with a beard and glasses too large for his face, slides me a shot of whiskey and seconds later, it’s sliding down my throat. I say, one more, which turns into two, which turns into a vodka cranberry and a whiskey sour.

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The wine is still sloshing in my stomach from dinner, and suddenly I look up and everything feels like it’s coated in stardust. Everything is blurry, everything seems brighter, it feels as if nothing is impossible. Should I text everyone I know and tell them how I really feel? Probably not. Am I going to do it anyway? Obviously. I feel on top of the world. The whiskey ginger in my hand tastes like liquid gold. With a smile on my face, I pay the bartender and tip him too much. When I stand up, my legs are pulsing, tingling, tired. I stumble home, fumble with my keys, and belly flop into bed completely clothed. I grab my laptop, everything still hazy and bright, and begin to write.

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Every writer drinks, and most likely, they drink while they write. There was Hemingway and his whiskey sodas. Faulkner and his mint juleps. Fitzgerald and copious amounts of wine. Sure, you can sit here and tell me “I’m a writer, and I don’t drink.” Well, good for you, but the majority of us do.

Alcohol starts a fire in your stomach, sending smoke signals, bright and bitter, to your brain, filling the chambers of your mind with insane inspiration. Hemingway started the first draft to The Sun Also Rises completely plastered, Fitzgerald came up with the idea for The Great Gatsby after taking too many shots of tequila. Hell, I’m drunk now. I just tried to Google “Writers that Didn’t Drink”, and barely anything came up. Seriously. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me. It’s a simple fact that writing and alcohol have been stumbling hand in hand together for centuries. It’s also a simple fact that writing drunk makes you more creative. If the famous literary heroes of history did it, what’s the harm in trying it yourself?

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There comes a point in every writers’s life where they wake up the next morning to find themselves next to a notebook filled with drunken prose paired with a hangover from hell. After struggling to adjust to the light, you’ll read what you wrote and think to yourself: “Wow. I wrote this? This is a masterpiece!” Of course, there will always be moments where you’ll ask yourself why the hell you thought “fluxistien” was a word. Or you’ll wonder why you texted the person you wrote a haiku about how sexy you think they are. There will always be those moments of sober regret. However, there will be mornings after morning where you’ll wake up and find yourself with beautiful, grammatically incorrect pieces of prose written by drunken hands. These moments will completely trump the other ones. Forget about the other ones.

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People have been using and abusing alcohol throughout all of history. Archeologists have found jugs that they believed were used for wine in grave sites as old as the the neolithic era, the era of the caveman. You think the guy who decided to rub two sticks together for no particular reason, accidentally creating the first spark of fire, was sober? Don’t be so naive.

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Wars throughout history have been waged because the kings that started them were entirely smashed off of too much wine. Why do you think that Marie Antoinette screamed “Let them eat cake”? I mean I don’t know for sure but she was probably so drunk that the only thing on her mind was cake. Usually when I’m drunk, the only thing on my mind is cake, so I understand her wholeheartedly. Aristotle’s Republic is about a bunch of philosophers sitting around a table arguing about a philosophical place that doesn’t even exist. Were they completely plastered? Most likely! Some say, the Bible was sometimes transcribed by monks who had had way too much to drink. I’m sorry, no one actually says that, I’m drunk, but it probably is true. It would explain everything. My point is, alcohol has been the underlying reason for some of the most notorious moments in history. Let it be a notorious moment in yours. 

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It may help to understand why drunkenness makes people more creative if we all understand the biological effects of alcohol. Increasing your blood alcohol content to .075 percent or more stimulates the prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that controls emotions, memory, and motor functioning. When drunk, though, many people tend to stumble, blackout, and drunk call their ex’s in tears after a night of drinking too much. However, because alcohol impairs judgement, it allows for people to unlock their creativity. Uninhibited inebriation stops people from second guessing themselves and lets emotions pour out of them the way they poured vodka straight from the bottle in to their mouths just hours before. Except that doesn’t mean drinking helps to solve all of life’s little problems.

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For example, If you need a little something to take the edge off of a looming deadline, have a drink. If you need to confess your undying love to your best friend, maybe don’t have a drink. You get the point. There is a line between abusing alcohol for the sake of your creativity and alcoholism– try not to cross it. Nobody likes a raging alcoholic.  

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You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy the creativity that alcohol allows. Any facet of art will do. Pick up a paint brush, sketch something, design something. Do whatever it is that your heart desires, and do it drunk. However, I wouldn’t suggest doing things like emailing your boss, or emailing anyone, tweeting from your companies social media account, performing brain surgery, or anything of the sort while drunk. Doing that will not create art, doing that will do nothing but create lobotomies.

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Now you may be asking yourself, “But, Tess, what if nothing I write makes sense?”. You’re probably not asking yourself that, but if you are, this, my friends, is why we created first drafts. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that you’re going to put all of your commas in the right place and spell everything correctly when you attempt the art of writing drunk. Unless you’re some form of writing demi-god who has never made a grammatical mistake in their lives, you are going to make mistakes and you’re going to make lots of them. If you’ve done it sober, you’re ten times more likely to do it drunk. Hemingway once told us to “write drunk, edit sober.” Forgot to put a period at the end of your sentence and completely rearranged your words? Don’t freak out, which you might do because, frankly, you’re drunk and people freak out when they’re drunk. Just let it happen. Let your creativity flow, and worry about the rest later. Why do you think they call it liquid courage?

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Take the leap, take a sip, and write. 

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