The Benefits of Not Being Able to Focus
Here's a brain teaser:
What do Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, and Dorothy Parker have in common?
They're all famous for being writers and drunkards.
Sure, it's an easy question. One that's more complex, however, is why do writers like to work under the influence of alcohol?
Several new studies might provide the answers.
Wired released a blog last week that reviewed how our brains operate under certain damages, while we're groggy, and when we're drunk. Tests given to subjects featured basic math, word association, analyzing, etc.
Many test-takers who suffered no brain damage, were wide-awake, and were sober faced some difficulty in the more creative endeavors. For example:
Move one line to make this equation true:
III = III + III
To cheat, go ahead an visit the hyperlink. You'll have to think out of the box to solve this one. But those with a limited ability to pay attention were able to solve the problem without headache.
Why? The study shows our imagination might be at its prime when we cannot focus, which also applies to alcohol.
At the peak of drunkenness, subjects were able to remain calm and consider all non-present and irrelevant data. If you've ever encountered a question in which there were a million possibilities, but none of them were choices A through D, then you might do well with creative problems.
Now I answer what this might have to do with writing - or rather, how to write when you're drunk.
I do not encourage people to see alcohol as an answer to all their problems in life, but I think it could help with the creative process of mapping out a story.
Let's face it, if you try to write a novel while smashed, the results may not be favorable. I'm no neuroscientist, but I would argue the conventions of writing such as structure and pacing are for the sober and awake mind. However, coming up with your story while drunk may be serendipitous.
The inability to focus allows us to think outside of the box; to consider all the options available and seemingly unavailable. Our minds can explore, and if we know the direction of a story, we might be able to construct one from the inside out a lot better.
While you're in the much recommended "planning stage" of a story, don't struggle getting started. If you have an idea of how the story will flow, grab a pint and scribble down everything that comes to mind. Perhaps even brainstorm with a drinking buddy (you know you've had some wild conversations whilst intoxicated, so why not see if they're truly interesting.) When you're sober and awake again, try to filter through your thoughts, see what sticks and still makes sense, and then construct your story.
It's been awhile since alcohol has been near my writing area, but maybe it's time. Maybe it's not. Never been much of a heavy drinker, but I sure like the works of the writers who are or have been.
Someone should read this blog (responsibly) drunk and tell me what they got from it. Til next time:
Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi, Oi, Oi!
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.