Does alcohol enhance our creativity? It’s a question we’ve all wondered about. It’s a romantic notion that writers, artists, and actors all derive a great deal of creativity out of drinking alcohol; and it often leads to the romantic ideal of the tortured soul. Beethoven reportedly drank wine about as often as he wrote music. At least five U.S. writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature have been considered alcoholics. Among many other artists who have used alcohol are Aldus Huxley, Poe, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Tennessee Williams. But does this concept actually have any merit? Does alcohol do anything to our creativity?
Before answering the above questions we need to know that what is alcohol and how it affects the body on consumption? Well, anyone who has had a couple drinks knows that alcohol seems to loosen them up, they become more social, are more likely to try new things, and just feel generally more relaxed. Alcoholic beverages as we know them contain ethyl alcohol, which is a form of alcohol easily absorbed by the body. Absorption leads to alcohol making it into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, alcohol begins acting on the spinal cord and brain, essential parts of the body’s central nervous system. Alcohol is a depressant in that it serves to depress the central nervous system. The first effects of alcohol is to slow brain function related to judgment and inhibition which brings on the aforementioned increased social behavior, and lack of inhibitions, making individuals more likely to act in ways they may not act otherwise. It also tends to bring on a relaxed, satisfied feeling, which many people enjoy right after work as a means of letting go of the troubles of the day.
Also, compared to the sober groups, alcoholic men solve problems faster and are more likely to have sudden insights. It is likely that alcohol makes a person more relaxed and therefore, their brain is able to take in the bigger picture faster. Although, when it comes to physically reacting, as we know from tests on car drivers, the process is slowed down. It may well explain the confidence that drunk drivers feel. While their mind is processing the visual input faster, and they are in fact more in touch with their environment, their brain’s connection with the physical process of operating a moving vehicle has been disrupted. The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge.