I came late to alcohol. Domestic circumstances, of which I won’t bore you to drink with, meant I was 25 before I was hit with the pile driver of my first hangover.
I was the lyricist in a two-man song writing partnership with composer Bob Mouat, and we had generated interest from a couple of London publishers and a young band from the Sunderland area. The publishers, eager to hear our songs in front of a live audience decided to travel to the north-east to the band’s local sell-out gig.
So, there I was, a deep-thinking, sensitive lad who’s previous drinking indulgence had been two pints in the local that had left me unreservedly giggly, suddenly being pumped with pints of Guinness simply for being ‘with the band’.
This was followed by a long and winding road trip to the after-show party in a packed car that included two pot smoking publishers and me with a liver trying desperately to process vast amounts of alcohol it was ill-equipped to deal with.
Long story short, my after-show party was spent face down on the lawn vomiting for Olympic Gold while praying for the blessed release of death. Thankfully, God wasn’t listening.
Ever since I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with drink. We’re a little like cousins who see each other at family funerals and christenings and like to stay friendly but know essentially they have nothing in common.
But I’m a writer. Booze and the tortured soul of the writer go hand in hand, surely? Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, the list goes on, and on.
SOZZLED WITH THE ‘IN’ CROWD
However slow alcoholic saturation does not, most free drinking writers agree, make for great work. Even that great literary lush Earnest Hemingway declared of alcohol ‘the only time it isn’t good for you is when you are to write or fight’. Does it however, oil the wheels that lead to commission heaven?
A good writer friend of mine from TV and radio once conceded she had got at least one job through “getting bladdered with the right people”. Indeed, when attending a meeting for finalists in the Red Planet Prize I recall Tony Jordan; writer and co-creator of shows such as Eastenders, Life on Mars, Hustle, declaring that he only wanted to work with writers he could ‘get pissed with’.
Maybe drinking stamina is subconsciously linked to a greater understanding of the excesses and vices of the human psyche, suggesting an ability to write flawed and ultimately more interesting characters. Conversely it could be argued that astute observation can benefit from social distance, a sense of looking in from the outside.
LIGHTWEIGHT AND LONELY
So, what about someone like myself, who is to drinking excess what Piers Morgan is to subtlety and sensitivity? Should I feel left out? Should those of us with a proud lightweight drinking status ever fear that it hampers our chance of a commission?
Well only if you’re looking for an excuse. Because ultimately all that matters is what we put on the page. Of course it does.
But then the cold, hard sober truth is that some extreme networking doesn’t do you any harm. Beat ’em or join ’em, one way or another.
Right, there’s a shandy over there with my name on it. Time to mingle.
In the meantime, a link to a Paul Ariss and Bob Mouat song from back in the day, written, as I recall, stone cold sober.
3 thoughts on “WORDS AND ALCOHOL: THE BOOZE-FUELLED ROUTE TO CREATIVE HEAVEN?”
I’ve only ever written one short story while under the influence of alcohol, Paul. It was written and published on my blog late at night. The next morning, I awoke to comments such as ‘this freaked me out’ and ‘this is one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read.’ The post also got a lot of reblogs and was shared widely on social media. The story made it into my first collection, but I’ve never tried writing under the influence since. I guess it’s because I like to be in control of myself and my writing. It scares me not to be.
However, I’d join anyone for a drink if they wanted to talk. Drinking and writing, though – I’m not so sure.
I don’t know if you’ve read the Stephen King book On Writing, part autobiography and part book about his writing process, but he wrote several best sellers whilst an alcoholic and also under the influence of cocaine. It seemed fine at the time but it was on course to kill him and subsequently of course, his career.
I admit to writing a few of my blogs under the influence of a Yorkshire tea bag, but that’s as heavy as it’s got!
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I never knew that about Stephen King. It does make you wonder if we have another writer inside of us who only comes out if we allow them.
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