Born to Drink?

Until recently, I never would have considered there to be any connection between liquor and literary prowess.  But then I came across a study that suggests “the alcoholism gene is linked to above-average verbal ability.”  I find this both noteworthy and strange.  Why would this be true?  How could this be true?  And how and why is it being measured?

It is sort of a chicken-egg conundrum.  Why employ the chicken and the egg analysis, you might ask?  Well, it’s simple.  Do writer’s write because they like to drink or do they drink because they like to write?  That is to say, is there something about liking to write that also makes one like to drink (a desire for escape, perhaps?); or does the frustration of attempting to write and be published (or, at the very least, appreciated) (a condition universally recognized as elusive) lead to the desire to escape through drink?  Could a genetic predisposition to drink also somehow inspire eloquence and verbosity?  Or are the two completely disconnected, just so happening to appear simultaneously with noteworthy frequency?

A writer needs to be inspired, I do know that.  Maybe once the natural, unaltered world fails to provide that inspiration, the writer seeks it elsewhere.  In a bottle, perhaps.  A liquid muse.

Writers are sometimes outsiders, I also know that.  And many of them seem to struggle to be understood.  Maybe they are trying to dull the pain, to drown the loneliness.  Maybe only when inebriated do they feel normal.

Or maybe there is something more self-serving to this “study.”  It was a reference, in a book, to an article.  And who writes books and articles?  Writers.  And do writers like to think they have above-average verbal ability?  Yes they do.  And do writers like to drink?  At least in some instances, you would have to answer with a resounding yes.

But here again, which came first?  Some well-known writers have been known to imbibe (Hemingway, Faulkner).  Did they drink because of some innate proclivity, or did they just try it once and like it.  Who is to say?  So when writers drink now, do they justify their behavior, at least in part, because those they seek to emulate did also?  Is that an explanation or an excuse?  Do they simply want to drink heavily, and thus write articles to excuse their intoxicated dalliances?

Even as a lay person, I think it’s safe to say that any link between drink and good writing could not possibly be causal.  I went to an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting once, to support a friend, and well-spoken they were not.  Not to say that one cannot drink and be a good writer, but I doubt anyone was ever a good or better writer because she drank.

I am fascinated by the human brain.  More intellectually than biologically.  The study, if it indeed exists, interests me.  Do they have a large enough pool for the study to have any statistical significance?  How scientific are their methods?  If one is predisposed to good writing, but never touches a drink, how could the connection ever be measured?  Has there ever been a true genius drunk?  A true drunk genius?  And if so, were they assisted or impaired by their genetically driven thirst?

Are writers born to drink?  Is there a wine/word connection?

Dunce One, your unique circumstances often find you among both literates and drunkards.  What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Born to Drink?

  1. I think this is way too hard to measure. It’s impossible to ask “Why is he/she such a good writer?” and to prove that it helped or hindered, spread out over an entire career, although it might be interesting to look at books written while under the influence verses books written under the clean and soberness.

    Stephen King has said he barely even remembers writing Cujo or The Shining because he was coked out of his skull. I think The Shining is still one of his best. At this point, however, I believe he’s written as much or more clean than when he was addicted to booze and more.

    With this, as with most questions, I think associations are more valuable than causes. Not “Why?” but “What?”

    I think the three best questions are usually:
    What happened?
    What happened before that?
    And what happened afterward?

    But if you’re using that to try and link authors and alcohol, I think it’s going to be an extremely difficult experiment to run, and very subjective. In the end I believe the only thing worth arguing about would be the experimental design.

  2. I agree, hard if not impossible to determine what causes good writing. But do you think there could possibly be any connection between a susceptibility to alcoholism and an above-average verbal aptitude? Do you think that is measurable? And, assuming for the sake of argument that it was true, what would it mean?

    That is crazy about Stephen King. I think it’s widely recognized that some artists dabble. Do you think substance use/abuse is more prevalent in the arts? If so, why?

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