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Old 03-17-2012, 08:12 AM   #1
WT Sharpe
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Does booze boost creativity?

Rightly or wrongly, the writing profession has been associated with people who were famous for their consumption of alcohol. The names are legendary: Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, the list goes on. Is this more than perception or coincidence? Is there a link between alcohol consumption and the writer's art? Alcohol causes so much social harm that I'm a bit reluctant to post the link to this article from the latest issue of ScienceNews, but nonetheless, here it is:

Vodka delivers shot of creativity
A boozy glow may trigger problem-solving insights
By Bruce Bower
March 24th, 2012; Vol.181 #6 (p. 12)

According to the article, a recent study involving 20 social drinkers came to a startling conclusion: "Getting a buzz from booze may boost creativity." Men were divided into two groups, one of which was plied with drinks until their alcohol blood level was just below the legal level for intoxication in the United States. The "buzzed" group was able to solve an astonishing 50% more of the problems than their sober companions, and the speed at which they solved the problems was 33% faster than the speed at which the sober group reached their solutions. Sans alcohol, both groups did equally well.

Of course one study isn't the final word, 20 subjects isn't a very large sample, and the article sheds few details of what kind of controls were employed, but what do you think? Is the bottle the writer's friend?

Last edited by WT Sharpe; 03-23-2012 at 08:52 AM. Reason: "Is there a link", not "Is their a link", dummy!
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Old 03-17-2012, 09:09 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
Rightly or wrongly, the writing profession has been associated with people who were famous for their consumption of alcohol. The names are legendary: Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, the list goes on. Is this more than perception or coincidence? Is their a link between alcohol consumption and the writer's art? Alcohol causes so much social harm that I'm a bit reluctant to post the link to this article from the latest issue of ScienceNews, but nonetheless, here it is:


Vodka delivers shot of creativity
A boozy glow may trigger problem-solving insights
By Bruce Bower
March 24th, 2012; Vol.181 #6 (p. 12)



According to the article, a recent study involving 20 social drinkers came to a startling conclusion: "Getting a buzz from booze may boost creativity." Men were divided into two groups, one of which was plied with drinks until their alcohol blood level was just below the legal level for intoxication in the United States. The "buzzed" group was able to solve an astonishing 50% more of the problems than their sober companions, and the speed at which they solved the problems was 33% faster than the speed at which the sober group reached their solutions. Sans alcohol, both groups did equally well.

Of course one study isn't the final word, 20 subjects isn't a very large sample, and the article sheds few details of what kind of controls were employed, but what do you think? Is the bottle the writer's friend?

Thank you, thank you. Now I have an excuse .

Though I'm reading On Writing by Stephen King at the moment, and he disputes that the booze made him more creative (and as most of us know, he had a very lengthy battle with alcoholism).
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Old 03-17-2012, 09:16 AM   #3
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Back in my drinking days, I did quite a lot of writing with a bottle by my keyboard. Some of the stuff was quite good, dramatic even. But since I was employed as a technical writer, it really didn't play well. I had to rewrite it...with a hangover.
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Old 03-17-2012, 09:22 AM   #4
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Back in my drinking days, I did quite a lot of writing with a bottle by my keyboard. Some of the stuff was quite good, dramatic even. But since I was employed as a technical writer, it really didn't play well. I had to rewrite it...with a hangover.
That's funny. I can only imagine some of the reports you wrote.
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Old 03-17-2012, 10:26 AM   #5
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Hi, am new here, so just getting the hang of it. But I would say, in terms of the actual practice of writing itself, absolutely not! I cannot bear to think about how many days have been written off by hangovers when I could have been writing! I could be as prolific as Charles Dickens if it wasn't for drink... well maybe not, but still.
However, I would also say that the experience of being a social alkie has given me lots of source material, and helps me get into the heads of the drink and substance-loving characters I seem to often create.
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Old 03-17-2012, 10:44 AM   #6
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Maybe drunking becomes part of the creative process the way smoking does?

I'm hesitant to say that being buzzed is a good thing, because I've had to deal with so many belligerent drunks in my time- especially where there shouldn't be any, like in youth groups or other areas where booze is illegal or shouldn't be available. I've also had to deal with people who were trying to get me drunk so they could laugh at me, or just because they didn't like the fact that I was sober.
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Old 03-17-2012, 12:12 PM   #7
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Alcohol is a good drug for removing your inhibitions. You do things, and take risks, that you wouldn't do if you were sober. I don't know if it would affect writing in the same way though.
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Old 03-17-2012, 12:26 PM   #8
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Hunter Thompson was well known for lubricating his writing skills with Wild Turkey as well as assorted pharmaceuticals. His severely-impaired muse spent a great deal of time in rehab, certainly Hunter would never have taken the time...unless he could have gotten a good story out of it.
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Old 03-17-2012, 01:42 PM   #9
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I need the booze
To trigger the muse

I need the booze
To escape from the grues-
Some musings that ooze
From a mind that's confused

You'd be fair to accuse
Me of lacking clear views
'Cause I need the booze
To trigger the muse

And before I'm abused
For what you've perused
I have to divulge
I've yet to indulge.
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Old 03-17-2012, 02:23 PM   #10
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Okay, I've got to admit that I make a point of having a glass of wine beside me when I'm writing sex scenes. It just allows me to lower my inhibitions enough to put the kinky stuff on the page, instead of just in my head. Even if I have to tell myself that I can write this because no-one is ever going to read it. Then I go back and edit when I'm stolne cold sober.
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Old 03-17-2012, 02:32 PM   #11
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Edgar Allen Poe died at a young age, perhaps from the effects of alcohol. While some of his stories may have been imagined while under its influence I doubt that drinking is a recommended method of stimulating creativity in a writer. Ernest Hemingway also liked to drink didn't he? And it's thought he committed suicide (some say it was an accident) as well. Alcohol does act as a depressant though so maybe the bottle helped in his demise too. I doubt we'll ever really know for sure. I've never had a hangover but I've heard they aren't pleasant things to have. Moot for me now though. Alcohol would really mess with my blood sugar (type 1 diabetes) so I haven't had a drop since Jan 1 1999 though I never was much of a drinker to start with.
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Old 03-17-2012, 03:58 PM   #12
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Ernest Hemingway also liked to drink didn't he? And it's thought he committed suicide (some say it was an accident) as well. Alcohol does act as a depressant though so maybe the bottle helped in his demise too.
A lot of depression survivors use alcohol as a crutch though, it dulls your mind if you have enough of it, and it's often the only way they can get to sleep at night.
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Old 03-18-2012, 09:40 AM   #13
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In my experience: In small(ish) doses it can. Too much and I can't concentrate and nothing gets done. But a couple of drinks over dinner seems to often be enough to let me relax back into the story. I seem to write faster and be less easily distracted (by this forum for example ). But then I mostly only write at night, I don't think I'd like to become dependent on such stimulus, especially if I ever had the chance to become a full-time writer.
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Old 03-18-2012, 10:57 AM   #14
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I think drinking lets you write what is in your head without the inhibitions of 'should I really put this down'? Alcohol doesn't make you do things you don't already have in your mind, it can't make you have sex with that person if you don't already WANT to have sex with them.

I quickly hit the 'drunk' stage, so writing in that state is usually hilarious to read, if you can decipher it at all. I also tend to fall asleep after one beer or vodka and 7, so that is not conducive to writing.
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Old 03-18-2012, 11:11 AM   #15
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In my experience: In small(ish) doses it can. Too much and I can't concentrate and nothing gets done. But a couple of drinks over dinner seems to often be enough to let me relax back into the story. I seem to write faster and be less easily distracted (by this forum for example ). But then I mostly only write at night, I don't think I'd like to become dependent on such stimulus, especially if I ever had the chance to become a full-time writer.
That study focused on low dosages, so there might be something to it. I can't see someone writing a masterpiece while falling down drunk.

On a related note, Carl Sagan's biographer talked of how Sagan would get some of his best ideas while smoking pot (his widow is on the board of NORML) and then to have gone on to refine many of those ideas with a clear head. Sure, in the cold light of day he threw out the vast majority of those pipe dream insights as worthless, but he claimed to occasionally have stumbled upon a real gem. In one of his books (I believe either The Dragons of Eden or Broca's Brain) he presented his theory as to how marijuana worked: not by enhancing the right brain (artistic/intuitive/creative side), but by suppressing the left, logical brain. He likened the right brain to the stars: always shining in the sky, but not noticeable until after sundown.
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