Speaking of the weekend: on writers and drinking

Drinking and writing have long been close pals. It almost feels like a burden sometimes. Especially when you come from a family full of drunks. My buddy Mark and I discuss this sometimes. I have watched a couple good pals over the years descend into drink and drugs as if they think it’s part of a rite of passage for writers. You know, emulate the boozy machismo of days gone by and perhaps the act will drag you along with it to greatness. They eschew all responsibility (parenting, jobs, love, etc.) in favour of a life dedicated to indulgence and freedom to behave like a child forever. It’s so performative…at first. Then you become the caricature you were playing and it’s a bit sad. They certainly get more attention and better jobs than a pair of dads who stay home and make lunches and drive people to piano lessons. But I don’t think you need to be a drunken douche to create great art. You just need to compartmentalize your world so that wild artsy you is still there to be called on when the creation process requires that line of carefree/careless thinking. Don’t get me wrong: in another universe, having made different choices, I could easily be that guy at the bar on his fifth martini, scribbling away in a moleskin with a haunted look in his eye, but mostly I turned out to be an ageing rebel trying to raise kids who will do better for the world than I did. Contribution! Anyway, Daily Beast looks at the difference between Hemingway and Fitzgerald on drinking and writing.

“Write drunk. Edit sober.”

This popular quote is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway since, you know, he was happy to have a drink or two.

I’ve never believed A) that he said or wrote it, or B) that he practiced it. In fact, through the bulk of his career, Hemingway categorically stated that he never drank while writing. In an interview in 1958 with Milt Machlin for the magazine Argosy, when asked if it were true that he took a pitcher of Martinis with him every morning on his way to work, Hemingway replied, “Jeezus Christ!…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. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one Martini at a time?”

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