There’s a stereotypical image of the struggling writer, drinking and writing in his garret flat. I’ve never been that stereotype, however I have found that on occasion a drink would seem to aid the process of creativity. On my first visit to Edinburgh at the end of 2003, I famously spent a pleasant hour in Eco Vino with a finger of single malt (Glenfiddich) and my novel, writing. During the later years of my single life I would often have a small roast on a Saturday night and open a bottle of wine (which would last me the weekend plus a couple of days of the following week – my wine glasses are old-style small ones). So after I had had my meal, I’d pour myself another glass of wine, crank up the stereo, and get stuck into the novel. If I was writing into the evening, I would sometimes have a glass of Port or Vana Tallinn. My writing usually went well, and I would end up charging forward with plotlines and character development and have to end up making pages of notes in my Moleskine for later in addition to the pages of actual writing. I’ve never know if this was a serious proposition, but I always fondly imagined that a wee dram in the evening or the occasional glass of wine fired the creative juices…

Well, further to something I heard on BBC Radio 4’s Today this morning, I sought out the actual journal article, which, thanks to working in a university I was able to access for free. It seems, that my idle musings might have some basis in truth – that maybe a moderate amount of alcohol can actually benefit the creative process…

Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving
Andrew F. Jarosz, Gregory J.H. Colflesh, Jennifer Wiley
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 W. Harrison St. MC 285, Chicago, IL 60647, United States

That alcohol provides a benefit to creative processes has long been assumed by popular culture, but to date has not been tested. The current experiment tested the effects of moderate alcohol intoxication on a common creative problem solving task, the Remote Associates Test (RAT). Individuals were brought to a blood alcohol content of approximately .075, and, after reaching peak intoxication, completed a battery of RAT items. Intoxicated individuals solved more RAT items, in less time, and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight. Results are interpreted from an attentional control perspective.