Talkin’ about words and alcohol

Whisky and Words_0938_edited-1I came late to alcohol. Domestic circumstances, of which I won’t bore you to drink with, meant I was 25 before I was hit with the pile driver of my first hangover.

I was the lyricist in a two-man song writing partnership who had generated interest from a couple of London publishers and a young band from the Sunderland area. The publishers, eager to hear our songs in front of a live audience decided to travel to the north-east to the bands local sell-out gig.

So there I was, a deep-thinking, sensitive lad who’s previous drinking indulgence had been two pints in the local that had left me unreservedly giggly, suddenly being pumped with pints of Guinness simply for being ‘with the band’. This was followed by a long winding road trip to the after show party in a packed car that included two pot smoking publishers and me with a liver trying desperately to process vast amounts of alcohol it was ill-equipped to deal with.

Long story short, my after show party was spent face down on the lawn vomiting for Olympic Gold while praying for the blessed release of death. Thankfully, God wasn’t listening.

Since then I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with drink. We’re a little like cousins who see each other at family funerals and christenings and like to stay friendly but know essentially they have nothing in common.

But I’m a writer. Booze and the tortured soul of the writer go hand in hand, surely? Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Dylan, the list goes on, blah blah..

However slow alcoholic saturation does not, most free drinking writers agree, make for great work. Even that great literary lush Ernest Hemingway declared of alcohol ‘the only time it isn’t good for you is when you are to write or fight’. Does it however, oil the wheels that lead to commission heaven?

A good writer friend of mine from TV and radio conceded she had got at least one job through “getting bladdered with the right people”. Indeed, when attending a meeting for finalists in the Red Planet Prize I recall Tony Jordan declaring that he only wanted to work with writers he could get pissed with.

Maybe drinking stamina is subconsciously linked to a greater understanding of the excesses and vices of the human psyche, suggesting an ability to write flawed and ultimately more interesting characters. Conversely it could be argued that astute observation can benefit from social distance, a sense of looking in from the outside.

So what about someone like myself, who is to drinking excess what Katie Price is to matrimonial bliss? Should I feel left out? Should those of us with a proud lightweight  drinking status ever fear that it hampers our chance of a commission?

Well only if you’re looking for an excuse. Because ultimately all matters is what we put on the page. Of course it does.

But then the cold, hard sober truth is always that some extreme networking doesn’t do you any harm. Beat ’em or join ’em, one way or another.

Right, there’s a shandy over there with my name on it. Time to mingle.

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