Writing Sober is Sobering

Because of my cats, I’ve become a morning person—kind of. I need coffee to see and think clearly, unlike a true morning person who’s sharp within minutes of getting up. The cats will start scratching on the bedroom door at 3:30 or 4 because that’s when they want service. Sometimes I can fall back asleep, but most of the time it’s impossible because I’ll start thinking about writing. So if I can’t fall back asleep, I’ll get up, turn on my laptop, and get to work. It’s not “discipline” in the strict sense. The idea of setting an alarm at 4 every morning to write sounds like torture, but I can get a lot of work done if I have an early start.

While writing has caused me to sleep less, it has forced me to alter other habits, the most important one being drinking. It could be my age or a lack of sleep, but just one drink makes me so sluggish physically and mentally. If I have two or three drinks, I’m toast the next day, and I won’t be able to write. Up until five years ago, I was a seasoned drinker (hmm…alcoholic?), and the idea of having just one glass of wine was inconceivable—a “slow” night for younger Donna was a shot of rum plus a glass or two of vino. Now, I average one glass of wine per month, because to drink means losing my ability to write and edit.

I used to think writing looked like smoking, drinking, and working away at a typewriter. Many great books were written this way. When I was younger, I thought if I wanted to write awesome stories, I had to alter my mind. I know now I have to sharpen it, not slow it down. I never dreamed it would be as boring as me in my PJs, making a pot of coffee, feeding my cats, and just working away at my laptop. Add in exercise and going to bed early. It sure doesn’t feel boring once I’m locked in. You know how you can get sucked into scrolling through your phone? Writing is like that for me, but even better. I’d much rather be a woman with a boring lifestyle who’s written dozens of books than a fun drunk with only a few books (or none) under her belt.

Current research backs up what I’ve been experiencing. Just one glass of wine a day (they always use wine as the example) will age your brain and shrink it. The damage is more pronounced when you’re older. There’s no doubt I miss booze, but now a drink no longer gives me a nice buzz—it makes me feel like total garbage.

If I want to experience the fun of getting drunk, all I have to do is write it into a scene and live vicariously through my characters. It’s sad, but so is getting wasted, or worse: losing a day of writing.

Author: Donna Fernandez

Author of contemporary fiction.