Coffee, Tea, and Booze

A cliché which follows writers is that they are hopelessly addicted to coffee, and when they get the jitters (which takes a lot) they move onto the watered down version of caffeine intake, tea. Then, charged full of caffeine, the only way they can settle their mind is to counter these effects with, you guessed it, wine.

This cliché is emphasized by a quote which circles its way around social media, usually promoted by writers who perpetuate the (possibly realistic) image. The quote being of course, Ernest Hemmingway’s “write drunk, edit sober.” Except this quote cannot be traced back to Hemmingway. And, somewhere along the way, there was an article where his family states that Hemmingway did not drink, and would not have said this. So are all writers then justifying their unhealthy intake of coffee, tea, and wine (or other libations) on this great writer, a writer who did not partake in this environment? Except for maybe the caffeine part.

Having read Hemmingway, I can understand where the quote came from, and would easily believe he had said it, if not solely based on his characters in The Sun Also Rises. I should possibly note that as I sit here writing this, there is a steaming cup of coffee beside me. And, it is possible that several came before it, and also entirely likely that tea will follow this one as my stomach protests the acidic coffee overload.

Where did the cliché come from, then, if not Hemmingway? Was it perhaps started by another writer, a lover of Hemmingway, who needed justification of their own unhealthy habits? I mean, of course, aside from tea (I still like to think tea is an entirely healthy addiction). Writers are notoriously introverted, living inside their minds, creating worlds, tackling world-issues, highlighting societal issues in a discrete and entertaining way. Writers are storytellers, knowledge sharers, this is a practice that can become daunting. Often there is backlash about what is being written. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, the writer is not safe from scrutiny.

It takes a great deal of concentration, guts, and a dash of ambivalence. Writing, whether fiction or non, reveals a part of the mind of the writer. They are showing an intimate part of themselves to the world to be judged, belittled, or praised. To successfully do this, writers stimulate their mind with coffee, waking up the parts which are still sluggish and hiding in the darkest depths. The coffee urges these feelings to come forth with a force and spill onto the pages. The coffee helps to remove the filter which may otherwise censor the information. However, the human stomach is not meant to withstand the amount of coffee which the writer requires in a day (at least not my stomach) and thus, once the coffee has taken off the edge the tea comes to maintain the progression without causing permanent stomach ulcers.

By the end of the writing day the writer has poured themselves onto the pages. They have searched their mind for appropriate information and researched to ensure the information is accurate and has not been changed by their caffeine charged mind. Now, even if the writer is still writing, the time comes for wine. To help settle the nerves which are tingling with energy and making it difficult to type (or think). The wine (or other drink of choice) helps to settle the mind, it too removes censors possibly even more effectively than coffee or tea, and allows the writer to sink into their work and put the information they gathered during the coffee and tea phase into a readable, sympathetic, relatable piece of work.

At the end of the day, while it may not seem plausible outsiders, the writer is exhausted. Back and neck ache with pain from staying stationary in a chair. Their mind is foggy from the variety of stimulus which they have injected into their body. And they are spent.

Whoever said “write drunk, edit sober” means to write without inhibitions, to write without censorship; but to edit without mercy. It just so happens that for writers this often means applying an unhealthy amount and variety of stimuli to the writing practice. Writing is an incredibly emotionally draining exercise, and sometimes the mind wishes to preserve itself by presenting the writer with writer’s block. The best way to remove it? Write anyway.

Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature