I picked up an old dateless newspaper article I’ve kept over the years, reminding me that too much drinking has its drawbacks, especially for writers. Here’s the headline: HALF TOP WRITERS ARE ALCOHOLIC: MD. It began: Writers, especially famous American writers, have possibly the higher rate of alcoholism than any other group.
That’s a healthy reminder to any of us who write for a living. Especially for those who work alone and must dream up saleable stories which don’t appear magically on their own.
As another old story goes, when someone tells you how you might have made it better by etc etc., your reply could only be: “where were you when the page was blank?”
The article narrowed it down to famous writers, that lets many of us off the hook. A good, sobering thought though, reminds us to keep it in mind when ordering a second whisky sour.
The writer went on, as you might expect, to name names. Damning some of my heroes.
But first we had to hear what a psychiatrist had to say about the condition. “It might be because writing is an obsessional job, and that restricting obsessions to that part of the day spent working is difficult.”
He backed this up by saying of the seven Americans who have won the Nobel prize for literature, four were alcoholics, according to their biographers, and a fifth a heavy drinker. Among them my favorites. Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Being a psychiatrist, you could expect Dr. Gordon Goodwin to go into why writers could be caught up in such a dilemma. He said this: Writing requires an interest in people: alcohol makes people more sociable and seem more interesting. Writing involves fantasy: Alcohol promotes it. Writing is a lonely job…
Here’s what else he says: Writing requires a number of small decisions, like choosing the best words. Restricting obsessions to a 9 to 5 workday is difficult, the wheels keep turning. Writers are notorious sufferers of insomnia. Oh oh. That’s sobering.
Author’s comment: Admittedly, those closest to a writer will say it is an obsession. Ask my wife. But then we writers keep away from reading such stuff because it might get in the way of our work. It’s best to take the advice from bumblebees. Logistics warns them their body weight is too much for their small wings to get them off the ground. Not knowing this, the bees go ahead and fly anyway. Amen to that little gem.