Let me be clear at the outset that I have no hatchet to grind, let alone to smash a tavern with. I am a teetotaler but strictly from medical necessity (it’s a migraine trigger) rather than preference (how do you think I learned it’s a migraine trigger?).
No, this entry comes about because I have collected some interesting quotations about writers and drinking. I think they would look a bit peculiar in the Wednesday Quotation spot bereft of larger context, so I decided to provide the context, and the quotations, here.
Literary history contains quite a number of soused wordsmiths who, despite having crawled into the bottle, still generally delivered the goods and enriched our lives. There are a number of explanations for this, and some interesting anecdotes have been collected over the years. We have previously looked at the intersection of depression and creativity, and there are no firm conclusions that the addictive and creative personalities are part and parcel of each other.
Then there is the concern that aspiring writers will look at their pickled predecessors and decide that the key to success and fame and anthologies is to be found at the bottom of a keg. Nothing could be more pointless than to rationalize one’s way into another person’s demons. There are just as many inebriated accountants and dairymen as writers, but they don’t live their lives in public and nobody writes dissertations about them.
Substance abuse is no guarantee of literary immortality; it just happens to not be an impediment for those sufficiently talented. It’s best to assume you are not that talented until you can prove otherwise. By the same token, though, just because you write you don’t need to assume that the occasional drink with friends is a guarantee of ending up dead in the gutter. Most writers, I suspect, can hold both their liquor and their literary license.
And now, on to the quotations.
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Sometimes I write sober and revise drunk, sometimes I write drunk and revise sober.
– Dylan Thomas
I am a drinker with a writing problem.
– Brendan Behan
My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky.
– William Faulkner
Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.
– Ernest Hemingway
Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.
– Steve Martin
I never try to write a line when I’m not strictly on the wagon.
– Eugene O’Neill
The myth of the miserable, dissipated writer is just that, a myth. Authentic writers, no matter what their demons, write toward the light. Anything else is self-indulgence.
– Monica Wood
We are all desperately afraid of sounding like Carrie Nation. I must take the risk. Any writer who wants to do his best against a deadline should stick to Coca-Cola.
– John Kenneth Galbraith