I was going to write about music and writing, but then I couldn’t get myself started, couldn’t figure out how to begin, so I went and got a beer and sat down and suddenly felt motivated. So I decided I’d write about alcohol instead.
A year or two ago, some friends of mine and I did an experiment. We wanted to see just what the effect of alcohol was on our writing. So, we sat down with some booze and some paper and a list of short essay topics we’d come up with earlier. Things like, Who Would Win in a Fight: Charles Dickens or Edgar Allen Poe? and Elevators are a Perfect Opporunity For…
The idea was, we’d pick a topic and write a short essay about it. Then, we’d have a drink, pick another topic and write an essay. Then we’d have a drink, pick another topic, and write an essay. Each time, we’d record how many drink’s we’d had and how long it was since we started, and the next morning, while nursing a hangover, we’d calculate our blood alcohol level for each essay and based on the writing in each essay, figure out what the perfect BAC was for writing–that is, the point when creativity and flow were maximized while still minimizing stupidity and spelling mistakes.
As any rational person could predict, the experiment was a dismal failure. Of the half-dozen-or-so people there, only two of us actually tried to do the experiment, and only actually went to the trouble of self-judgment and BAC calculations the next day. Mostly people just got off-topic, and talked a lot. Even I got distracted at one point, and the jump in BAC between two essays was from .035 to .08, and since those two essays were vying for my best results, my optimal BAC must be somewhere in the nebulous reaches between those numbers.
But hell, it was fun. Try it sometime.
The point is, alcohol does seem to help me write. Not, you know, a lot of alcohol, but a drink or two certainly. Gets me thinking, thoughts flowing, fingers moving.
There’s a good chance a lot of it’s psychological. One afternoon while trying to get some writing done, I hemmed and hawed for a good two hours getting nothing accomplished, then finally opened a beer, took a single sip, and wrote half a page in minutes. It just got me focused.
Just there? I paused in my writing, and took a sip of beer, and got right back to it. It’s that brief second you take to think about what you’ll say next. And yet I hardly ever find it works as well with other beverages. Tea gets me going in the morning, sure. Juice or water keeps me hydrated. These are things I sometimes drink while writing. But it seems only alcohol really has the power to immediately make me write.
And sometimes you’re just stuck and you need to free your writing of inhibitions. Like I said in my last post, sometimes it’s better just to get something on paper, even if it sucks and you have to go back and rewrite it later. Being a little tipsy can help with that.
I mean, there’s always spellcheck.