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Booze and other general mayhem as a writing aid

Some years ago I went on my first writing retreat. It was bucolic, inspirational, and led to some interesting connections. And what I learnt was that there is one thing writers do best: they carouse.

The retreat was held at the beautiful Duncton Mill, on the South Downs, in a series of cottages, each with an open fire. Wine was available at cost price from the kitchen. Some people brought a bottle or several with them. You could add wine to your evening meal, if you wanted. You could say it was a wineorama.

The result was an exhausting weekend. Not only was I being psychologically stretched by the exercises, but the combination of late nights and early mornings still under the influence meant that I was hearing some pretty funky stuff during the 7 am meditation session. (On the plus side, the wet walk to view the sunrise at least mitigated the dehydration.)

If you write and you don't drink, or drink sparingly, people view you as a bit of an oddity. Isn't it necessary to the creative process to imbibe? Look at Hemingway, after all. Anne Sexton, Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs. The association between intoxicating substances and creativity is well documented.

'Intoxicating substances' needn't be confined to liquids, pills and potions. Love, or sex, the immersion within, is as much a part of the writing life as substance abuse. Byron and Shelley weren't the only philanderers on the block.

If you can't manage to have an addictive personality, another useful feature for writers is a personality disorder, or at the very least, a dysfunctional childhood. After all, when did living a measured life ever lead to great literature? Surely the greatest novels come from pain - after all, look at the Brontës.

Here’s a tip, and it doesn't come from someone who's spent their life knitting and having early nights: don't believe in the above shit. Great writing may be conceived from trauma, or it may not. It won't make it past the foetal stage unless it's been gestated, and that means BICHOK: bum in chair, hands on keyboard.

Forget about being interestingly dysfunctional. If you want to write, if you really want to write, and you have a day job and/or children, or indeed any other commitments bar writing (which will be true of anyone who doesn't have a substantial trust fund and a dislike of other humans), you will pretty much have to give up any distractions that impair your performance and steal your time. Those hours after the kids are fed, when you could be working on the novel but instead choose to binge-watch Game of Thrones while necking Bordeaux? That evening down the pub with some people you don't know well, which may be dull but will remove the stigma of drinking alone? I'm afraid it's a choice.

You want to be at the top of your game? You need to seriously consider becoming a big fan of redbush tea.

And don't despair if your childhood didn't read like 'A Child Called It.' JK Rowling had a pretty peaceful early life, and she did kind of alright for herself.

Comment below with your 'how drinking helped my writing' stories, please. I need inspiration and motivation, otherwise Game of Thrones will have me in its grasp.

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