Writers, do drugs/alcohol enhance your creativity/writing ability?

I stumbled across this question pretty randomly on this site and immediately knew I had to create a post about it.

Personally, I’ve never mixed drugs/alcohol with writing. If I’m drinking, then it’s something I’m doing with friends. I’ve never really thought about drinking at home and seeing how that helped or hindered my writing. That said, I know a lot of great writers are very well known for drinking and writing. The quote “write drunk and edit sober” speaks magnitudes.

Thoughts?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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108 Responses to Writers, do drugs/alcohol enhance your creativity/writing ability?

  1. Geraint Isitt says:

    For me, no. If I don’t have anything going on “up there”, I can’t write no matter what I’m on or not on (not on – I don’t do drugs). But when I’m in the groove, the writing just flows.

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  2. Hey, whatever works, I guess! If it helps you get published then go for it. The problem is you would have to stay drunk to keep writing good stuff, which would be everyday. Could you handle that? I’ll stick to the old fashioned way of clear mind and hard work to get the job done. But … if I’m not published in ten years, then who knows!!!

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  3. sporterhall says:

    Wow! Interesting.For me, I write,edit,etc sober. I’m not sure how alcohol would play into this recipe for me, but for now I will leave it as is. Nice post though. 🙂

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  4. raulconde001 says:

    Drugs and alcohol don’t mix with writing. I will avoid it. Interesting post.

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  5. Lisa Thomson says:

    Drinking and writing is like drinking and playing pool. One drink in, everything starts to flow better. Two drinks in, you start to lose your focus. Three drinks in, might as well switch to shuffle board.

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  6. davemstrom says:

    My cousin Ben once smiled down at me (he’s 6 foot 6, I’m 5 foot 10) and asked, “Do you drink?” “Very little,” I said. He said, “Do you do drugs?” “No,” I said. “Do you smoke?” “No.” He said, “You’re a writer! Writers are supposed to have addictions!” I shrugged and said, “I drink coffee.”

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  7. Lani says:

    It doesn’t help me, and I’m glad it doesn’t. It’s such an old stereotype – let’s move on.

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  8. 80smetalman says:

    There were a few occasions where I wrote bits of my first book after I had smoked some weed. I didn’t feel very creative.

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  9. Personally, alcohol just makes me sleepy and pot makes me giggle and see magic things in kaleidoscopes. Maybe acid … ?

    I very seldom do alcohol or drugs as it is, and I just wouldn’t think of doing them for the purposes of writing. I can’t see them helping.

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  10. David says:

    Charles Bukowski?

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  11. daydreamer254 says:

    No way!

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  12. Carlos Cunha says:

    I guess it depends on what you mean by “drunk.” At some point, I lose sufficient coordination to type, and then editing is a nightmare. Having said that, I have come up with some interesting work while half in the bag.
    I’m pretty sure Papa didn’t mean it literally. If I understand his work style, he woke up each morning, pounded out about four hours of work, and then went on with his day, which generally including boozing it up. He clearly didn’t have to deal with e-mail and social media because then he would not have had time to fish.

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  13. An interesting question.

    I don’t actually drink at all or do drugs, so I wouldn’t know. But there are tons of writers who do and swear they can’t work without it!

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  14. denarogers says:

    I don’t do drugs, so I can’t vouch for that, but I drink a beer or glass of wine on occasion yet not often enough to tell whether it enhances my writing…but hey who knows, maybe I should give it a try 🙂

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  15. brixmcd13 says:

    I do get some of my best ideas or get break through ideas when I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine or shots of tequila. I always write those ideas down, because I won’t remember. Usually, however, the writing is indecipherable the next day. Sigh.

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  16. maggiedot says:

    I *have* written drunk once–I used to require myself to write 500 words a day, no excuses, so one night after beers out with friends I remembered that I hadn’t done my words yet. At the time, it was miserable. I was too buzzed to think straight and I knew it while writing, which was annoying. I recall thinking of that Hemingway quote at the time and thinking “How could he *do* this?” Like tying a shoelace in the dark.

    However, I did find that 500 words recently and laughed my head off. It’s nothing I can use but wow. I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe, and then promptly hid it because woooooow. I was definitely writing about what came mind in a completely unfiltered way. That said, I’ve never written drunk again, and never intend to. Way too mentally clumsy. 🙂

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  17. SarahClare says:

    Oop.. joining on to this long chain of replies, if that’s ok?

    I don’t drink very often (I can’t, because of work) but I have had some fun in the past while writing and drinking. Sometimes it’s been a collaborative thing (because what’s a pair of writerly friends to do when the chianti is flowing?) but I have used it as a bit of dutch courage when going solo, it makes me just ‘write’. (But does make editing something of a task the next day!)

    It’s a thin line though.. one sip too much and I’ll be asleep on my laptop. Yup. I’m a crazay drunk.. Snoring like it’s 1999.. :/

    Interesting thing to think on though. I think it works for some people.

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  18. Dustin says:

    I don’t don’t do drugs, and rarely drink, but when I do it’s always at home. I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. As you pointed out, many well known writers wrote while under the influence of drugs/alcohol, and I can’t help but wonder if such works would have turned out differently if they’d been sober. I mean, Stephen King wrote several classic stories drunk/high, and he barely remembers writing Cujo and The Tommyknockers.

    Then there’s Earnest Hemingway.:)

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  19. Jennifer Butler Basile says:

    Drinking would only make me think I was awesome – not actually allow me to string together awesome words! But that would be only before I fell asleep 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Personally I have tried writing a wee bit loaded – never got anything finished! Love my “whole” spirit and brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Dominika says:

    I wonder if people that don’t often manipulate their bodies with external-sourced chemicals (but ignore food for these purposes), I wonder if they’re more willing to post here than others or if the wordpress community attracts/maintains this trait-similar demographic. *wonder wonder* Probably not.

    Anyways, I don’t drink alcohol (anymore). I drink a lot of coffee, on a daily basis, and have nasty withdrawals if I try to stop – and this affects my ability to write, since if I have a headache, I cannot read. I have occipital neuralgia, so I’ve always incorporated chemicals into my life. The younger I was, the more mainstream it was – all legal pharmaceuticals, mind. So, as I got older, the constant use of over-the-counter medication and prescription drugs that were originally meant to manage my chronic pain, became harmful to my body and in result, my art and craft went… elsewhere. It was different. Provided me with different perspectives, ideas, understandings to consider. Nothing I’m using now though, but it informs the creative decisions I make occasionally.

    Eventually, I had to stop. My body was breaking down. I found great relief in indica and CBDs (political term: medical marihuana). Living in Seattle at the time, this was also legal and so, as soon as I found out, I stopped everything else and changed to a preventative treatment plan with herbs (I also employ sage, rosemary, lemon mint, and others).
    I haven’t had a pharma or OTC in over 3 years. I still have a ways to go when it comes to healing my body and getting to a point where it’s strong as it can be. Cannabis is such a normal, everyday reality of my life and has been for so long, that I don’t consider it much more than drinking a soda (only more healthy than a soda).
    So, sometimes, like if I eat a bunch of sugar at once, I’ll feel a hyper rush to scan through my work and do an inventory-sweep. I dunno if this is enhancing my creativity, but it is what it is and sometimes, it helps. I don’t consciously link my writing and my medication together. Mostly, it allows my muscles to relax and for me to not be in excruciating pain… then I can write/read more!

    In that way, it supports most physical-orientated things in my life currently. Won’t be the end-point though. I’m working every day on empowering my body to be independent from anything that I can’t easily get while traveling the world – to… embody itself fully. Unless prohibition is repealed, then I can travel and go about my life freely without the criminal stigma attached… otherwise, completely dependent, then I can go to Europe without having to worry about pain.
    I’ll get there, eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. NovaSaber says:

    Never tried it and probably never will, but I suppose it makes a little sense if you assume that Hemingway meant “intoxicated enough to be slightly less inhibited” and not “DRUNK”.

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  23. Jay Sheets says:

    Definitely not for me. If anything enhances my creativity it’s meditation, but to each their own!

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  24. Britt says:

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  25. shananf says:

    Many people achieve a sort of clarity when they are under the influence of drug or alcohol and as a result may write some interesting or strangely profound works but I don’t believe this applies to everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Lady Gaga recently admitted she was addicted to painkillers and a huge part of that is because it fueled her creativity. If you watch “Poker Face,” and “Applause,” you’ll see it’s quite different. “Applause,” looks like an acid trip. She went to rehab but lamented that she would likely lose some of her creativity without drugs. Compare that to Bjork who doesn’t abuse substances to fuel her creativity. Although Bjork is a very unique individual. I think she processes the world in a different way than most of us.

    Personally, some of my best thoughts come when I’m really tired. Like you know how when you lay down to sleep, and there’s like this blissful feeling when you close your eyes? That’s when I get the most inspiration. I’ve had multiple hip surgeries, and I was given strong painkillers post-op, so I know what opiates feel like. It’s actually a similar feeling to the one I get if I’m really tired and close my eyes. I don’t know if it would be the same for others. I go to sleep with a thought in my head, and if something meaningful comes to me I wake up to write it down. This is why I keep my laptop or phone on the nightstand. I have written while taking a hot bath too. It’s a bit different than the feeling I get right before sleep, but my mind is really relaxed, so I don’t have so many inhibitions telling me what I can and can’t do.

    I don’t think there is a wrong or right way to go about it. Whatever works 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  27. sbjones7 says:

    I’ve tried it both ways with mixed results, haha. I sure hope I don’t have to became a raging alcoholic to be a more successful writer though. It certainly sounds like something Ernest Hemingway would say.

    Like

  28. The only drug I use is caffine. When I’m drinking its with my friends at the end of the day, not when I’m working on something.

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  29. I used to write with a beer or a glass of wine – but only one – to help put that little self-criticising voice on mute and let the words flow easier. But more than one and suddenly you’re writing nonsense :p I don’t do it these days, as I don’t really drink and I find the voice doesn’t come back to bother me much now that I’ve gained more confidence in my work.

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  30. I would expect this would be something that one would discover by accident. In the modern world of the hungry writer looking for anything and everything that could be the silver bullet to success, I bet some try drink themselves to a bestseller on purpose. This, of course, would doom them to failure. One could parallel this notion with Stephen King’s statement: “You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile.” If there is any notable benefit to drinking and writing, it would be the silencing of your internal editor while drunk and they may be what Hemingway got out of it. With no little voice criticizing you, one would be able to get a lot of words down on paper.

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  31. I’ve written while under the influence and I found it easier to get ideas out of my head without constantly criticizing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. The problem is that alcohol and other drugs alter the brain and change its perceptive ability. In time, the dependent writer may write drivel and not realize it. Or he/she may need to drink more and more to write less and less.

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  33. Asiaelle says:

    Definitely can’t write or even get beyond giggles or straight depression when I drink. I’m definitely creative when I smoke / ingest THC. Even if I’m not actively writing, it does get my creative juices running. I love reading while slightly high as it allows me to completely suck myself into the body of work; which is why it’s great for editing or if you have written yourself into a hole.

    It will certainly vary from person to person; also over all drug and alcohol exposure starts to change the way you think just on a day to day level depending on your usage; whether its recreational or a dependency

    Love the quote. <3.

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  34. Anthony Schiavino says:

    A beer or coffee while writing. If anything, coffee while editing. I don’t get drunk either. Just enough to be loose. It worked very well while I was writing my book but I didn’t go overboard.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. kevsteph says:

    People who read my work tend to be much heavier drinkers than I. In fact, many hit the bottle pretty hard when I ask them to look over my stuff. What a curious coincidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. johnkutensky says:

    Hm, never tried, but it’s an intriguing idea. Reminds me of those anecdotes about classical societies that would debate issues twice, once drunk and once sober, so that their debates would lack neither boldness nor wisdom.

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  37. sarahlearichards says:

    Caffeine does. Maybe that’s cheating, but oh, well, it works!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. moabsam1 says:

    It seems like you’re doing great writing and drinking until you re-read it the next day. Generally, not the best idea.

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    • mark says:

      Like this,
      “who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
      incantations which in the yellow morning were
      stanzas of gibberish”
      from Howl – Allen Ginsberg

      It seems it even happens to the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Haha. I agree – you end up editing a lot. Particularly with alcohol.

    Like

  40. jamesrovira says:

    I think some people write for the same reasons that they get drunk or use alcohol: they’re in pain, and it’s a way of escape. So the two activities are related, but they don’t necessarily help each other. I think you can do anything, though, so long as you follow Hem’s advice and EDIT SOBER. That takes a clear mind. No getting around it.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. createthinklive says:

    Reblogged this on createthinklive and commented:
    Reasons to drink?

    Like

  42. Once after my birthday party where lots of bubbly was consumed, I sat down and wrote 3k words of a new short story. At that time I thought it was absolutely fabulous and that my writing was stellar.

    Needless to say that when I sobered up and looked at it the next day, I was sorely disappointed. The story could be salvage, but the writing was absolutely dreadful, and the logic was absent.

    I don’t drink and write anymore, or drink and edit for that matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Nope, doesn’t work. Good for coming up with ideas for stories, though (and then you have to go through them sober because 90% is ridiculous)

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  44. fireflyin says:

    I’m not sure. It’s been a long time since I wrote anything while drunk, and I made the mistake of handwriting it. When I sobered up the next day, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

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  45. When I write fiction/thriller it is largely intuitive so I don’t know what drink or drugs would do to that. I like some drinks but hate and detest the feeling of being drunk. The thought of a hangover is enough to stop me drinking before that happens. Drugs is just not my scene so I don’t know as far as that is concerned. Certainly the creative part of my fiction writing just flows. When I sit at my computer my mind is blank as far as the story is concerned. After a few minutes the words start flowing. After that the self editing part has to be very focused so boose would destroy any hope of improving the first draft.

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  46. Great question! I am in recovery from drugs and alcohol. I started writing when I was using. But today, I am clean and sober that opened the door to share my life. I am having a blast with no guilt and shame plus no hangovers.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. thorsaurus says:

    Hemingway also blew his own head off with a shotgun. The moral of this story … even a genius can have bad ideas. 🙂
    But having said that, a little Kahlua in a mug of coffee often accompanies my flip-dictionary and laptop. I don’t think of it as drinking, but rather, simply indulging in enhanced creamer for my java.
    Great topic, Jodie.

    Like

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