A Little of What You Fancy

(October 2017)

Take it from one who knows; writers are an odd bunch. They don't get out much. They sleep too long and stay up too late. Their blood, at any given time, is a peculiar blend of one part red cells, one part white cells, two parts coffee granules and one part scotch. Of course, there are some very famous examples from literary history who skipped the first three ingredients altogether and spent their (usually rather short) lives permanently pickled. Genius overcomes drunkenness is the general conclusion when considering the works of Dylan Thomas or Charles Bukowski… but what if they were on to something? What if the flow of words from these famous drinkers was directly proportionate to the flow of booze?

Let me be clear. we're not advocating for a moment that you prepare for the writing of your best man's speech by sliding into alcoholism. But can a drop of the hard stuff actually help when you're looking for inspiration? Surprisingly, new research from the Department of Psychology at the University of Graz in Austria - as reported in a recent Daily Telegraph article - suggests that the answer is yes!

In an experiment that tested their subjects' ability to connect words creatively, the researchers found that downing a pint of beer improved the test results by a whopping 40%. Their conclusion was that a quick drink removes the inhibiting patterns of thought that are locked in when we're sober. You've heard of thinking outside the box? Booze dissolves the box!

When it comes to writing the sort of playful, fun-poking speech that is expected of a best man, perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised. We all know how a drink can loosen up a crowd of friends and get the anecdotes flowing. So perhaps it stands to reason that achieving that same relaxed state of mind would help you to recall the sort of chucklesome stories that you need to fill your best man's speech, and lay them out in an amusing way.

Consider the following scene. John - sober as a judge - is sitting at his desk thinking over the events of the stag night that he attended the previous weekend. To be honest, it's all a bit hazy, because far more than one pint of beer was consumed on that occasion, you can be sure. He lifts his pen and writes:

"We had Dave's stag night last Saturday. He was supposed to meet Julie the day after for Sunday lunch, to finalise today's plans. But he was so hungover he didn't make it."

All the ingredients are there. Stag night drunkenness is hinted at. Dave is left in the doghouse. But as a story, it falls flat. Now let's try it after a pint of beer, and tell the story the way we might in the bar of our local pub…

*glug-glug-glug*

"It was Dave's stag night last Saturday, but he had to be up the next day to meet Julie for lunch, so she asked me to make sure he got a good night's sleep. Well, I'm happy to report that after eight hours of bar-hopping, Dave slept like a baby… by which I mean, he woke up at 2 AM, screaming and covered in his own poo. Sorry he kept you waiting, Julie."

See? The ingredients are the same, but the recipe's different. Of course, there is a downside to using alcohol as a literary lubricant. Take too much on board and you'll find your motor functions will quickly be impaired to the point where you won't be able to type or scribble down your thoughts, or even reliably use a dictaphone to record them. So take it easy. One pint is enough. To illustrate this point - purely for scientific purposes, you understand - let's sink a few more and try that again…

*glug-glug-glug* *gasp* *glug-glug-glug* *hic* *glug-glug-glug* *burp*

"It was Dave's stag do last weekend. Wahey! Come on the lads! Julie… f%^&&*n' Julie… she wanted him to get a good night's sleep because he had to meet her for lunch after… after… on the next day. Anyway… *burp* 'scuse me... he slept like a f%^&*n' baby, didn't he…. He kept waking up… screaming… with shit in his pants… Don't the bridesmaids look beautiful, ladeez'n'jennelmen? *hic*"