You’re No Hemingway

So, you’re a writer. You sit at the shimmering, terrifying typer and bring a beer, a wine, or a whiskey along too. Writing is hard! You need a drink! When you’ve filled your cup, you remember the greats: Hemingway, Bukowski, Rhys, Carver. They did it with the booze. So can you! It’s just to calm the nerves, get the juices pumping, the blood flowing. You are strong. A tank. Pave your way to literary glory!


You are pathetic, trite, and, most likely, a terrible, terrible writer.

Sure, I claim these things with a mild, implied “probably.” Some of you are alcoholics, dependent. Your work would be even worse without the booze. Some of you are so great that, by some miracle, the drink cannot conquer your talent. But for the rest of you, the rest of us, let me have your undivided attention: Stop, just stop.

Time and time again, I read lazy, embarrassing manuscripts only to hear the age old words spewing from the author’s mouth. “Oh, I’ve just got to have a drink before I start! Really helps take the edge off.”

Your sentences are sloppy, wordy.

Your characters are shallow, emotionless, numb.

Hear this: You might need to relax, but your characters don’t. They need tense, neurotic behavior. All those thoughts you can’t face and emotions you think are paralyzing and hope to drown in alcohol, they are your saviors. They are your muse, your fuel, your soul. Every drop you swallow to calm your nerves is another drop in your literary grave.

“But what do I do? These nerves. I’ve got all these nerves!”

Yes, of course you do. That is why you’re a writer. That is why you need the page. Pluck your beard, pick some scabs, twirl your hair, pick your nose.

Just don’t drink.

Now, think for a second. How did it work out for the rest? Hemingway’s brains decorated some wall, Rhys had two masterpieces and vanished into obscurity, Carver died regretting the last twenty, drunken years of his life, and Bukowski…Well, maybe Bukowski lived all right.

Make no mistake. I am not here to preach the sober’s gospel. In fact, I think most writers need to drink. We are a restless, obsessive, insufferable bunch, born with brains wired too tightly and nerves too taught. Myself included, lord knows. I yank out beard hair after coarse beard hair just reading a book. But when you sit down at the typer, you have an obligation. Even if you’re writing something you’ll never show anyone, you’re writing to exorcise your demons, to heal, not to party. The party is later and eternal. The typer is for work, for others, for the self.

But what can I say? I don’t care. Do it. Drink up. You coward. You waste. More room for me.

– Gabriel Schnell