A Defense of Drug Abuse

It's fine as long as you drink with a group. Honestly!

December 13, 2010

Man cannot live on bread alone. Occasionally, there must be drink.

Artists in every field occasionally dabble with the dilemma of drugs and alcohol. Not so much in, “Should I drink/ use this?” as much as, “Will this make me a better artist?” There is no image more enduring than that of the writer or artist in some smoky bar, stiff drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, notebook or sketchpad at the ready for inspiration to hit.

It’s crap.

Well, mostly. It would be a lie to say that drugs and alcohol haven’t helped art in some way. As Bill Hicks once said, the greatest music in the last century has been influenced by drug use. So, in an effort to build on that tradition, let’s go over a few of the more popular drinks and what they can do for you as a writer.

I do want to point out that I firmly believe, along with Stephen King and scores of writers, that any artist that NEEDS alcohol or something else in order to function is in desperate need of some help. This is just a review of various drinks and how they can best be used to jump start creativity or how to use them in a social situation with other writers.

Gluttony 2 Redone by ~TchaikovskyCF on deviantART


This is a stiff drink, not for the uninitiated, that a friend once called perfect writing inspiration as long as you blasted some James Brown.

Bourbon is best enjoyed by yourself unless you can find others to drink it with you. I prefer it straight, though if the weather’s a bit hot some ice is always welcome. Bourbon on the rocks may not be as manly, but hey… It works.

As a solitary drink, enjoy it slowly. Taste the different flavors. Feel the wood-aged smokiness. Poetry benefits from that sensation of aged whiskey, the sting of the first taste, and the legacy of rugged men throughout the years sipping this spirit in bars all over the world. If bourbon’s not your thing, other whiskeys like Crown Royal or even Jack Daniels work in a pinch. This is actually my drink of choice when just working alone.

Expect to grow some facial hair with bourbon.


Under no circumstances or threat of a bullet to the brain EVER drink any tequila that does not say “100% agave” on the label. I mean it. You better eat a bullet before you drink any of the swill served at scores of college parties or office Christmas parties.

I’m serious. Tequila drunk, real tequila drunk, is a sensation that’s not easily replicated by any other liquor I’ve ever had. You’re a bit numb and uninhibited but without the fog of other alcohols. The next day, if all you drank was pure tequila distilled from 100% agave, you’ll wake up without any hint of hangover. Sip it. Enjoy the flavors, the sharp sting and the mellow wood flavors.

While I don’t usually condone mixed drinks, a shot of tequila with some orange juice and a shot of sangrita makes a delicious alternative for those who don’t like straight liquor. Pace yourself to one drink an hour and you’ll stay within a zone of clear-headedness that will help you write and consider ideas previously taboo.

And you won’t be so drowsy that you’ll forget what you’re thinking about.

Still, pace yourself. Whether or not your antics end up on Youtube is your own fault.

Tequila by *coldasylum on deviantART


If you’re looking for inspiration, this is actually the last place you should look. I enjoy a good, dark beer, but even I have to admit that this is one of the worst drinks, in any form, for inspiration. It’s fizzy and makes you go to the bathroom every ten minutes. It may be good for social get-togethers, and may work with other artists, but as a general rule, it’s not great when it comes to opening the ol’ brainpan.

Beer by ~tilk-the-cyborg on deviantART


The Green Faerie… It’s blamed for the madness of an entire generation of artists. Absinthe is now available in the United States, and I have a limited experience with it, but I can honestly say it’s one of the more interesting drinks to have while working.

Like tequila, it seems to induce clear-headedness while granting the regular benefits of inebriation. Inhibitions and the normal censors in the brain go down while you remain alert. That, combined with a light numbing in the mouth from the oils and chemicals in the liquor, make it feel unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I can see why Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde coveted this drink. While I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, the connection, however tenuous, to those great masters is thrilling.

OOAK Sculpture: La Fee Verte by *Indigo-Ocean on deviantART

And that’s really what the drink gives you: a connection to the past. Drinking is a social experience. You should enjoy it with others, preferably artists and creative types who can loosen up and share their insight and accept your own ramblings.

Anyone who needs liquor to work has a problem. But nothing is more traditional, more insightful, than the occasional alcohol-fueled gab session.

Hey, I wrote two theses at a bar, which brings us to one final point:

Pick your bars carefully.

Dark corners are good. Anything that plays decent music is welcome, but not necessary. If the bar gets too crowded, you’ve lost any ability to work. If you’re going to write or sketch, arrive early or late. Avoid the peak hours or pick a nice corner with enough light to see. And tip your waiter or bartender. Let them know you mean business. As someone who also worked in the food service industry, I can tell you that a constant good tipper goes a long way to getting you in the bar’s good graces. Hey, it might even score you a free drink.

And observe.

Even if you yourself don’t do any drinking, bars are perfect places to get a glimpse into human behavior. As the alcohol flows, you’ll see people acting like idiots, but you’ll also see and hear material you’d never think of on your own.

Now go get drunk and write something.

And for those artists who are 21 (or pretend to be 21), what drinks do you prefer while working?

And now for links!

  • The Salvation Army won’t distribute Harry Potter and Twilight toys because they are against the organization’s Christian beliefs. Wow. Really? I can understand not giving away Twilight toys (they cause cancer, you know), but Harry Potter toys?
  • The science fiction purist in me says AAAAGH! But the geek in me says “Oh!” to these redesigned Darth Vader models.
  • And finally, movies like this are the reason alcohol should not be taken on a constant basis while writing.

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