Mr. Donovan and I met in an MFA creative writing program. The majority of the students drank heavily, did drugs, or both, and a couple of the faculty members drank a lot, too (which at least one of their colleagues brought up as an excuse for their inappropriate sexual behavior.) I drank a fair amount in grad school myself. It was normal, and from what I’ve heard, it’s normal in a lot of writing programs.

 

Writers Don't Have to Drink Alcohol #healthy #quit drinking #stop #alcoholism #why do writers drink so much #are all writers alcoholics #writing #health #self-care

 

There’s a long tradition of writers drinking heavily in general. In the book The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinkingby Olivia Laing, examines the alcoholism and other addictions of six great American writers: Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, and John Berryman.

 

Writing and Alcoholism #why do writers drink so much #drinking and creativity

 

Some writers argue that it helps their creative process.I doubt that relying on it is a good idea for writers or artists in the long term. People tell themselves all kinds of lies about drinking: that they’re fine to drive after four beers. That it’s a great way to celebrate…even if they’re alone.

Many like to quote Ernest Hemingway (though I’m not sure he actually said it): “Write drunk, edit sober.”

According to Anthony Burgess’s biography, Hemingway drank way, way too much. British journalist John Walsh writes that a doctor diagnosed Hemingway with liver damage in 1937, when he was 38 years old, and told him to quit drinking. Other doctors told him the same thing over the years, but he didn’t quit. Hemingway killed himself at the age of 61 after a period of ruinous mental and physical health.

It’s at least enough to make someone consider the alternative: “Write sober, edit sober.”

Not all alcoholic writers stayed that way. John Cheever, a severe alcoholic, went into rehab in 1975. After finishing rehab, he wrote to a friend, “I came out of prison 20 pounds lighter and howling with pleasure.” He stayed sober for the rest of his life.

 

 

I recently became concerned about my own wine habit: 2 glasses of wine a night, 4 or 5 nights a week. I’d read this article about the link between alcohol and breast cancer. I knew I slept better on nights I didn’t drink wine. Besides, I’m an altruistic kidney donor. While my kidney function is perfect so far, I don’t want to push it.

So I think I’m going to join the 1/3 of Americans who don’t drink at all. There are a lot of benefits. It’s much less expensive to go out to eat. I’m not taking in as many empty calories. When I’m sad, I won’t have chemicals in my system making me sadder.

I’d quit once before, for a couple of years. I started again because I felt like I ought to be able to treat myself, in an indulgent, sophisticated, grown-up way–but there are plenty of ways to do that. I think I was pretty susceptible to the way alcohol has been marketed and presented in the media. I’ve heard that this book addresses this issue: The Naked Mind, by Annie Grace.

 

 

In Julia Cameron’s seminal work, The Artist’s Way, she writes a lot about the destructive idea that writers are naturally unhealthy and addicted. She writes about her own victory over alcoholism in her memoir Floor Sample, which I really enjoyed.

 

 

As soon as I decided I should go alcohol-free, I realized that I’d been using wine for 2 things: to make myself stop working at the end of the day, and to deal with the stress of my job. I can find better ways to do both of those things.

I don’t think going alcohol-free is for everyone. Most of my friends are moderate drinkers, and I don’t have any reason to think it’s an issue for them. Everyone’s different. It’s just my path, and I’m feeling good about it.

Writers Don't Have to Drink #alcoholism #why do writers drink so much #are all writers alcoholics

 

Have you ever quit drinking? Or did you never take up the habit in the first place? Or is alcohol just a small part of your balanced, positive lifestyle? If you feel so inclined, let us know about it in the comments! Thanks for reading, and have a great week!