It’s a staple of the mythology of writers that a lot of them are alcoholics. It is also taken for granted in this interesting article (in Danish) from Berlingske Tidende.
From Hemingway and Truman Capote (who can be credited for the headline for this post) to Danes like Tom Kristensen (who’s most famous book “Hærværk” is about drinking) and F. P. Jac (who also mostly writes about drinking in one form or another), many great writers have been drinkers. But were they also great writers, because they were drinkers? Personally I don’t really think so, and agree with Danish critic Erik Skyum-Nielsen:
Digtere, der er alkoholikere, er alkoholikere. Men de begynder til tider selv at tro på, at de er konger i alkoholens rige, at de har en overmenneskelig status og kan styre det ustyrlige. Tit blive de understøttet af den virak, der er omkring deres person og den ros, de får som digtere, og de ender med et grandiost misbruger-jeg. Det er en skrue uden ende af illusionsdannelser, hvor det digteriske og det alkoholiske falder sammen.
Often writers are not only intoxicated with the alcohol but also with their own fame for being an alcoholic. In most of the cases it sends them to an early grave. It is of course possible that alcohol can play a role in stimulating creativity, but it is also possible that it prevents us from reading the masterpieces the writer never got around to writing, because he was too drunk.
Personally I can get great ideas while having a glass or two, but in the long run I would write a lot less if I drank a lot more.
NOTE: The Drama Surgeon will be on holiday for the next two weeks. Incidentally in a country where alcohol is very hard to get!