Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway advised, “Write drunk; edit sober.”
It’s unclear whether Papa actually said those words, although it wouldn’t be too surprising—he did like to imbibe. One study has said that 71 percent of well-known 20th-century authors suffered from alcoholism.
Alcoholism is no laughing matter, of course, but many great writers have found that a drink (or 12) a day helped inspire them. According to two studies, it might inspire your own work—well, at least elicit a wry toast.
In the most recent study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that after downing a couple of beers, men were better at solving problems. Here’s how the New York Daily News
described the study:
“To reach that surprising conclusion, the researchers devised a bar game in which 40 men were given three words and told to come up with a fourth that fits the pattern. “For example, the word ‘cheese’ could fit with words like ‘blue’ or ‘cottage’ or ‘Swiss.’
“Half the players were given two pints. The other half got nothing.
“The result? Those who imbibed solved 40 percent more of the problems than their sober counterparts.
“Also, the drinkers finished their problems in 12 seconds, while it took the non-drinkers 15.5 seconds.”
The one downside: The men with blood alcohol levels of 0.07 were worse at memory skills, according to researchers.
A caveat: The University of Illinois at Chicago research included only men, but a study from 1992 identified another possible perk of drinking on the job.
According to a 2011 story from Slate.com
“Participants were asked to write creatively for 10 minutes, using a couple of obscure paintings for inspiration. The test group, with an average blood alcohol content of 0.09, wrote significantly more words than their sober colleagues, and a higher percentage of their sentences included figurative language and novel word combinations.”
There is (at least) one problem with the study: Researchers didn’t identify whether the writing made sense, which means a couple of drinks may simply lead to maundering—which is rarely a good thing for writers, particular those who toil in corporate communications.
Chances are good that you’re not solving word problems or crafting the great American novel—at least not at work—but your job does involve problem-solving and writing. With that in mind, PR Daily asked members of its LinkedIn group
to answer this question: Does drinking improve your writing?
The respondents were split: 122 said no; 121 said yes.
Roughly three-quarters of the people weighing in were male, and more than 50 respondents left comments. Among commenters, the teetotalers stuck to a similar refrain: Drinking turns your brain to mush.
“I get drowsy after a drink or two,” said one respondent.
Someone else added: “Couple of Table Tennis or chess hits before writing is great. Better drink after writing otherwise it will erode your mindfulness and sharp thinking. Once finished, you can enjoy life.”
Commenters in the pro-drinking category shared the idea that knocking back a glass of wine encourages creativity—to a point.
One member of the LinkedIn group said that she occasionally enjoys “one glass of red to take the edge off in the evening before getting back into some evening work.” Though she added, “Any more than that and it's goodbye creative-ville and hello wino-town.”
Another commenter said: “Wouldn't say it ‘improves;’ however, it flows more and I can express myself much easier.”
Considering alcohol can make writers more verbose, it might be wise to take this reader’s comment into consideration: “I have trouble enough being succinct and communicating effectively! A few drinks and I'd NEVER get to the point...”
What do you think? Does a drink or two help your creative process? (And please disclose whether you’ve quaffed a few before penning your comment. On second thought, never mind—we’ll probably be able to tell.)