Mastering The Morning After

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 2 2013 @ 7:35am

It’s one thing to write under the influence, but Nick Richardson admires a writer who can labor while hungover:

Joyce would rise late, after an inebriated evening spent belting out songs at the local boozer, and get his writing done in the early afternoon ‘when the mind is at its best’. Cheever did much the same, but got out of bed earlier. Hemingway would stay up boozing but be at his typewriter by six the following morning. He famously wrote standing up: because his leg had been injured in the war, he said, but also to stop himself drifting off. Francis Bacon used to paint hungover, though not because his mind was sufficiently numb to be able to concentrate, but because it was revved up: ‘I often like working with a hangover,’ he said, ‘because my mind is crackling with energy and I can think very clearly.’ …

At the tamest end of the revver spectrum are the dozens of maestri who couldn’t get going without a cup of coffee. There are so many variations of ‘x got up, had a cup of coffee and sat down at his desk to work’ in Daily Rituals that it can feel, at times, a bit like Queneau’s Exercices de style as reimagined by a breakfast fetishist. At the more extreme end are people like Stravinsky, who used to pull handstands to get the blood to his head; Benjamin Franklin, who used to sit naked in his room for half an hour or so each morning, taking his bracing ‘air bath’; and Sartre, who would, every day, consume twenty Corydane, a mix of amphetamine and aspirin fashionable in 1950s Paris, now banned.

Previous Dish on drinking and writing here, here and here.