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THE ARTISTIC RESET

Giving up alcohol doesn’t mean sacrificing creativity

An origami rose between a pair of hands
Reuters/Eloisa Lopez
A Filipino entrepreneur makes an origami flower to be sold ahead of Valentines Day, in Quezon City, Philippines, February 13, 2019.
  • Sarah Todd
By Sarah Todd

Senior reporter, Quartz and Quartz at Work

For years, David Sedaris drank while he wrote. “I never had to force myself to sit down at a typewriter because I had a drink right there, and that was my reward for sitting down,” the best-selling author of books like Me Talk Pretty One Day and Calypso said in a Fresh Air interview in 2013. The two activities were so intertwined that he became convinced that he needed alcohol in order to get words on the page. “I kind of got it in my head that I needed to be drinking while I wrote,” he said in a later NPR interview. “I don’t know why I was so convinced of it, it’s like saying ‘I can’t sing unless I have a blue shirt on.'”

In 1999, Sedaris quit drinking—and his prolific body of work in the ensuing years is a testament to the fact that drinking was never the key to his wry, witty genius. But the false link between alcohol and creativity is one that remains embedded in the cultural consciousness.

“One of the struggles with sobriety is this feeling of having to give up creativity,” says Mei McIntosh, who goes by her DJ name, Missing Mei. As the founder of the Creative Sober, an Instagram-based community and podcast, she tries to combat this idea by sharing the stories of musicians, painters, and authors in recovery. “It’s extreme vulnerability to be able to be in this place and share it together and know that there’s someone else out there going through a similar situation,” she says. “There’s something healing about that—it’s about being seen.”

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