Thursday, April 11, 2013

A-Z Challenge: J is for Just Me, Jack D. and Jimmy B.

Tennesse Williams

By JccKeith

Sydney Porter, Tennessee Williams, Dorothy Parker, Edgar Allan Poe, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway – what do all of these people have in common?  Well besides being famous figures in literature and brilliant writers, they were alcoholics.  They loved the booze. 

Just me is Jcc, that is, well, me.  I am by no means a famous author but I have wondered about the effects of alcohol on writing ability.  Jack D. is Jack Daniels and Jimmy B. is Jim Beam, they are a brand of whiskey and a brand of bourbon.  I don’t know what particular type of alcohol the above mentioned authors preferred.  I just like saying Jack D. and Jimmy B.  They are fairly well known names and will get you pretty drunk pretty fast.

Why is alcohol such a stimulant for the talent of some and such a sabotage of others?  That is a valid question and one that deserves just as valid of an answer.  The truth is, no one really knows.  Deciding to become a famous author by becoming an alcoholic is not a wise decision.  Writing drunk is also not a wise decision or a productive one for everybody.  I have the theory that the famous writers above were already talented and alcohol just helped bring it out.
So why did alcohol bring out talent?  How exactly does alcohol work on the brain?  I say the brain because although alcohol affects the body, it does so through its action upon the brain.

One of the main places affected first and most heavily is the cerebral cortex.  The cortex controls thoughts, memories, decision making, and inhibitions.  The affect on the cortex results in poor memory skills, poor judgment, a lowering of inhibitions and general feeling of confidence in abilities that may have been lacking prior. 

It is, I believe, the lowering of thinking abilities as far as those concerned with judgment and criticism that clears the way for more abstract thoughts.  Without the vigilant obsession with social norms, acceptability, concerns with daily activity, concerns with responsibility and all other things normally occupying the mind – deeper or more creative thoughts have free reign.  The mind is allowed to wander, to explore alternate pathways.

Think about all the crazy things people do and say when drunk.  They aren’t thinking clearly and that is
precisely what creativity is.  Creativity, in so many ways, is the ability to ‘not think clearly’ rather it is to think outside the norm.  For some, the only way to reach this creative thought area is to get rid of the other regular thoughts.  For some, the only way to suppress regular, mundane thoughts is with alcohol.

That is my little theory on why alcohol was so prominent in the lives of many famous authors.  They needed it to transcend their normal thoughts.  At least they felt like they needed it, perhaps the creative parts of their mind, their more brilliant thoughts could have been reached another way.  We will never know.  There are no experiments that I know of to prove or disprove whether the same areas of the brain or same level of creativity can be reached without alcohol.

I’m pretty sure such experiments would involve creative people pushing their bodies to the brink.  They would have to become raging alcoholics, as the authors I mentioned were, to determine if they were more creative with alcohol or without.  I am also fairly certain that there is no way to truly quantify creativity.  It is a subjective thing for the most part.

Until science is advanced enough to determine the true effects of alcohol on creativity, we’ll just have to stick to theories.  I say mine is accurate enough.  I also think that the mind is something we don’t really understand fully.  This lack of understanding, I believe, means there probably are other ways to access the creativity of the mind without alcohol.  Alcohol carries too many damaging and addictive effects.  Surely meditation or some other way to transcend the mundane exists.


  1. I honestly don't believe alcohol brought out the talent in many of their cases, and often it smothers talent and holds it hostage from you. I also disagree with your statement "they were alcoholics. They loved the booze." I presume you meant that as a joke, but as someone who's had both friends and family members suffer through this, alcoholics don't love alcohol. They're chemically and psychologically addicted to it and are unable to separate anything in life from it. The victims get so deluded and re-wired by the dependency that functionality without it doesn't seem possible to their conscious minds.

    I know non-alcoholics who do find utility in booze. A stand-up comedian friend of mine believes he performs better if he has one drink before his set because it relaxes him the slightest degree. If he does more, he'll mess up. I buy that kind of utility to booze for a lot of people, though certainly not all.

    1. As I say in the post, alcohol does not make everyone productive creatively or otherwise. It is just a theory that for some, it suppresses the usual self doubt and criticism and allows for more creative thoughts to come forth.