A few days ago, after I decided to browse through the pages of my favorite Hemmingway book, ’The Old Man And The Sea’, I experienced something strange. I couldn’t get Santiago out of my mind. When the entire village lost faith in him, he didn’t get upset or angry about it. In fact, he simply laughed about what others had to say and accepted that this is what people think of him. Frankly, he’s a role model for us all.
It seems that I really gave this great novel a lot of thought that day, especially since right before I went to bed my mind drifted so far that I started questioning whether there is a connection between alcoholism and creativity.
‘Write drunk, edit sober’ doesn’t mean what you think it does
This quote often attributed to Ernest Hemingway shouldn’t, in my opinion, be taken literarily. In fact, instead of revealing that the secret behind his great masterpieces was alcohol, Hemingway was actually saying that we must realize we’re not always the same person. As he saw it, there are at least two sides of us present when attempting to create something. While one day we can see endless possibilities and feel we can do everything, other times we’re more practical and we can actually perceive our creation objectively.
I won’t deny that many great writers have had addiction problems. From James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald to Edgar Alan Poe, Charles Bukowski and even Stephen King, there are numerous examples that can attest this hypothesis. However, the simple fact that these great men had trouble managing their drinking doesn’t automatically entail their creativity was a direct consequence of substance abuse. At best, it means that some individuals with creative genius are also prone to addiction.
You don’t need alcohol to be creative
Granted, some studies suggest a possible link between creativity and alcoholism. In fact, I read somewhere that for addicts, creativity might be the result of low dopamine levels. Then again, I believe that it’s highly unlikely you’ll turn into a prolific writer by succumbing to alcoholism.
I know, if you’re in early sobriety and have a clouded thinking, you might be tempted to say that recovery took away your creative abilities. While the first few months will be rather strange and confusing, rest assured that this is a normal reaction; your brain is simply trying to adjust to the loss of alcohol. Moreover, if you stay true to the straight and narrow path, in time you’ll experience a clearness of mind you’ve never known before.
In case you want to undergo early sobriety as smoothly as possible and boost your cognitive abilities, then there are some things to try out. I for one tried to keep a journal of what’s happening with me. While I found the idea silly initially, the truth is that writing things down helped me form ideas that would have otherwise been missed.
If writing journals is not your cup of tea, then you could try other methods, like lucid dreaming or meditation. If you want to learn more methods to enhance your creativity during recovery, then I invite you to check out our forum.