Genius In A Bottle: Using Booze As A Muse

red-wine-computer      As a writer one can find inspiration almost anywhere. A single flower, a blue van with rust on the side, or a simple picture at the local art gallery. The possibilities are endless really.

     Lately though, I have found my literary inspiration in the midst of a bottle of Merlot. I do not condone alcoholism (my father was a heavy drinker) but I do feel that a glass or two of wine can help with the writing process. Let me be clear though, I’m not talking about getting fall down drunk, I’m simply saying that a couple of drinks gets my creative juices flowing much like stretching a muscle before a long run. I came across this quote while researching the subject…

“Somewhere between sober and drunk lies genius.” (Pretty sure this gal Marcie Cohen is somehow my long lost half sister or something)

    Wine has been synonymous with the written word for centuries. Wine was used as a main ingredient in the ink of the Middle Ages. (What a waste in my opinion…) The Ancient Greeks would get together to drink wine and recite poetry.                                         “It is the wine that leads me on,

the wild wine

that sets the wisest man to sing

at the top of his lungs,

laugh like a fool – it drives the

man to dancing… it even

tempts him to blurt out stories

better never told.”

Homer, The Odyssey

    Not only that but it’s science baby.  In a 2014 study, moderate intoxication improved problem solving and gave birth to “sudden insights.” (Eureka! Indeed)  It can really move my story along as I become fearless in my imagination and stop being so critical of myself and just write. Not worrying about syntax or punctuation or whether I have any talent at all. My sometimes crippling self-doubt is silenced and my mind is unobstructed by such trivialities. The creative monster comes out of the closet and asks me if I want to play. And yes, I usually do.   

    Wine and writing has transcended cultural barriers since the dawn of time as well. The first miracle recorded in the Bible was written in the gospel of John as Jesus turning water into wine. I mean if it was that important to the son of God then who am I to argue? I already mentioned the Greeks but even the Chinese sometimes love wine. “Once drunk, a cup of wine can bring 100 stanzas…:” ( Xiuxi Yin/Ruan Ji)  And don’t even get me started on the Romantic poets of the 18th & 19th Centuries. Those guys were wooing women with wine and writing since the first time they held a pen in their hands. In “Ode to a Nightingale” John Keats writes…

    “O, for a draught of vintage…

     With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

     And purple stained mouth.

     That I might drink and leave the world unseen…”

    There are a thousand other examples of writers that made no secret of the fact that drinking was a key element in the writing process albeit not always wine. Poe liked brandy, Stephen King preferred beer, and William Faulkner kept a bottle of whiskey beside him while working. Writers are obsessed with the senses, wanting you to feel, hear, smell, and taste their writing. Take this example from Ernest Hemingway.

    “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

    I hate oysters. I think they’re gross and feel like mucous sliding down my throat but after reading that passage I wanted to go to the nearest seafood restaurant to see if maybe I was wrong. His writing moved me with not only the promise of good wine but my senses were tingling with delight. My God, how could you not be moved by that? (By the way, I tried oysters again. Note to self – don’t trust everything Hemingway says!)

    In all seriousness though, I’m not advocating getting smashed while you write your next novel or blog post.  It doesn’t make me a better writer any more than it makes me a better dancer. I like to do it but I don’t have to do it. Stephen King has since conquered alcoholism and he still writes like 12 million books a year. (You’re slipping in your old age Mr. King, I expect more of you.) So if you’re a fiction writer and you wanna have a glass or two then by all means do it. Just stop at two, anymore than that and you might not remember all your clever ideas and fantastical plot twists. Besides, by then you’ll have to edit and you’ll have to be stone cold sober for that. At least according to Hemingway. Trust him on that one.


5 thoughts on “Genius In A Bottle: Using Booze As A Muse

  1. I could not agree with you more (except about oysters, have you tried them with a shot of scotch?). I definitely have a writing (/golfing, but that’s less relevant) sweet spot of about 2.5 drinks. Any less than that I’m okaaaayyy, any more I’m going back the next day like wt actual f. Thank you for the validation!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliant! Thank you, for doing the research and putting it all together like this (and what was that Hemingway quote? For a guy famous for his short succint sentence structure, that was one looooong run-on sentence!). You’ve written what I have always known. A drink or 2 absolutley relieves us of our inhibitions. Writers have known this for centuries, as you’ve pointed out, as do musicians. (The next time any of my in-laws have a negative comment about alcohol I will have to direct them to this blog post, lol).


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