Booze and creativity are a celebrated pairing in artistic folklore. Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Raymond Chandler, Jackson Pollock all drank like hell and produced great stuff, right? The fact that what they drank eventually killed them is conveniently forgotten, because it’s much more fun to believe that alcohol frees inhibitions and helps to access one’s muse rather than slows reflexes, rots the brain and promotes paranoia.
However, before I sound too much like Carrie Nation it must be said that a few belts of vodka indeed can, on occasion, be creatively helpful because muzzling our superficial jabbering consciousness can help release intuitive insight from a deeper well. Saying it differently, without some kind of mental conditioning, (meditation, yoga et al) our minds are rarely peaceful enough. Getting a good buzz-on can numb past regrets and future fears enough to let in the whispers of an heretofore blocked creative direction.
So far so good, but there’s a downside to late night searches for artistic breakthroughs at McSorley’s Saloon. Relying on chemicals to unblock creativity eventually becomes a loser’s game. Creative substance abuse can’t be sustained. The body builds up a tolerance for the drug of choice and more and more is needed to keep a decent high going. Then more and then even more isn’t enough. Alcohol, cocaine, heroin, it doesn’t matter, eventually the stuff kills.
Keith Richards excepted of course.