Alcohol is a powerful sedative. Its effects vary from person to person, but when used in moderation it usually creates a relaxed sense of well-being and pleasure. Does alcohol help writers with their productivity?
You might conclude that drinking must be helpful, because so many well-known authors drank so much. Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Poe (to name only a few) both wrote and drank quite a bit. A romantic notion exists about the dissolute, bohemian writer whose creativity emerges from a pickled, tortured psyche.
To write well, most of us need to have the brain firing on all cylinders. Writing is one of the most demanding cognitive activities we can engage in, and our brain has to be operating effectively and accurately in order to do it well. It can feel stressful to write, and though alcohol can provide an immediate sense of stress relief, there is a cost.
Booze is a depressant. There may be an initial period of disinhibition and anxiety reduction when you take a drink that helps you feel inspired and ready to write, but the longer term impact of heavy drinking on your productivity and brain will be destructive. Once an addictive cycle takes hold, you lose more and more control over your time and behavior. Your writing becomes sporadic or non-existent, and the quality goes down.
Yes, many great writers were alcoholics, and even though they gave us plenty of amazing books to read, most died younger than they should have, because of the booze.
Being dead is a tremendous handicap to an author’s productivity.