Writing and Eating and Drinking

Riese’s Team Pick:

Artist Wendy MacNaughton has a delightful cartoon situation illustrating what some of the world’s greatest writers liked to eat while they write. Lord Byron apparently drank vinegar (as an appetite suppressant) and Joyce Maynard should be my roommate because the lime popsicles are always my least favorite part of the Edy’s Fruit Bar Variety Packs and that’s what she eats when she writes.

What about food writers? Cook/writer Kathleen Finn says she snacks on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ak-Mak sesame whole wheat crackers, iced coffee with milk and Ramen in miso soup. At her blog, Finn asks her food-writer colleagues for details on what they eat while writing and the answers vary from cereal to bing cherries to bourbon. On a slightly related note, Cosmo Australia asked the question to Health Writers to find out what they actually eat when they’re not telling you what to eat.

It is a commonly accepted truth that writers are often really heavy drinkers, and in Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide for Great American Writers, author Mark Bailey and illustrator Edward Hemingway provide recipes, book passages, direct testimony from writers themselves and a bit of historical research to reveal the habits and proclivities of, as the title suggests, Great American Writers. NPR has a look at their favorite passages and recipes from the book, like William Faulkner‘s Mint Julep. Did you know that sexually-ambiguous Carson McCullers enjoyed drinking Long Island Iced Tea served hot mixed with sherry in a thermos. She called it “sonnie boy” and would drink it all day claiming it was just tea, not gallons of alcohol.

The book is actually pretty rad and would make a good gift for the writer/drinker on your Labor Day List.

For desert, here’s NPR giving Amy Sedaris a Literary Drinking Quiz:

“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”
-Raymond Chandler

If you’re a writer/artist/musician person, what do you eat/drink while writing?

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3202 articles for us.


  1. Sometimes a huge mug of green tea with soymilk and maple syrup, or matcha tea powder with soy and syrup, but since I mostly write in the middle of the night, I don’t eat or drink anything then.

  2. today while writing/being awake i have had tea and iced tea and eaten a bagel, beans and rice, and edamame. this feels representative.

  3. Well, I’m a history/music double major so I suppose I qualify for two of these categories?

    When I write, I drink large amounts of Coke. Like the 52oz size jug thing. I’m also a perpetual procrastinator, so I arm myself with 5-hr Energy too. Eating? Well. Honest? Spaghetti-Os. It puts me in this sort of youthful state. It doesn’t matter if the paper is 5 pages or 20 pages. I always write with these things.

    Musically? Before an audition? Tequila. Tequila. Tequila. Performance anxiety is a bitch.

    • Oh god, I learned that lesson the hard way when I nearly killed my month-old computer by spilling water on it.

      • Yuh. I use eating as a way to take a break from writing, and I’ll watch hulu or something, but I never actually like, eat type eat type.

  4. Oh, my god. Amy Sedaris.

    This NPR interview is like finally getting the water out of my ears from swimming. It’s that great.

    Even the background laughing audience doesn’t bother me.

  5. TONS OF TEA. I drink so much tea when I’m writing. Usually black tea, but really it is any tea I can get my hands on.

  6. i thought weed would stimulate my writing but what actually happens is i start a thought and then abandon it. i end up with all these open text boxes in the morning and it gets too embarrassing to actually read them sometimes.

    • Yeah I’ve tried drinking while/before writing and I end up getting too sleepy and nothing productive happens, and then I go to bed.

      • Same, I just fall asleep or, equally likely, I decide writing sucks and I want to go do something fun instead.

        • im a rare breed!!!! i don’t eat or drink when i’m writting, but i do tend to write a shiiit load after drinking or smoking (or other deviant affairs). and for some reason it makes my grammar and spelling a loooot better. im a weird one though cuz smoking also makes me want to work out, it’s crazy

          p.s. it might also have to do with what kind you’re smoking

  7. I drink tons and tons of coffee.

    A week or so ago I had an “energy gel” because I had run out of coffee and it was super late. That was gross.

  8. I’m drinking whiskey right now while working on my senior thesis. Which is about exorcists, in case you were wondering. In an awesome way, not a weird way.

  9. I eat crunchy peanut butter straight out the jar. None of that smooth stuff for me! Also crisps – stuff that you can eat with just one hand. And I drink silly amounts of water/tea/coffee/fruit juice. In class and exams I have to have a bottle of water on my desk or I get really unnerved.

  10. I drink the rest of the coffee sitting at the bottom of my french press. I legitimately prefer that everything I eat or drink be at room temperature.

  11. I’m afraid mine are not interesting, because I am a broke student and I have the same eating habits as most broke students: Cereal (my preferred brands are Frosted Flakes, Apple Jacks and Cap’n Crunch, in that order), pop tarts, ramen noodles. And when I’m feeling fancy, pizza bagels or chicken-and-horseradish sandwiches.

  12. Mint green tea, V8 (I like the plain tomato tasting kind, is that weird?), all the bagels in the area, and cereal. I’m so paranoid that one of these days I’ll spill cereal all over my laptop but good god, it’s an addiction.

  13. I think the calorific and caffeine content of my snacks are directly proportional to the difficulty of the task at hand…

    But muesli, grainwaves, jam donuts, peppermint tea, diet coke and red bull is probably a fair representation of the general gradient.

  14. You are incorrect in regard to Carson McCullers. She did indeed drink something she called a “Sonnie Boy” — in fact, her mother mixed them for her and would bring them to her in the mornings while she wrote — but a Sonnie Boy was a mixture of regular ol’ hot tea (not Long Island) and sherry. Long Island Iced Tea wasn’t even developed until the early 1970s, and McCullers died in 1967.

  15. Earl Grey, instant ramen bowls, and popcorn. If it’s late and I am feeling very sad for myself, I’ll make cocoa from scratch because that’s what my mom used to do when I was up late writing essays in high school.

  16. When I’m working on a new canvas/project/whatever I’m the same as Julia Scheeres – I work better when I’m a bit starved. I’m a total cliche re: ‘Starving Artist’ but my brain just seems to go into overdrive.

    Only problem is I’ll plateau, at which point copious cups of tea (soya milk, one spoon of sugar) in winter, or countless glasses of Lipton Iced Tea (peach flavour) are downed to make me come back to the real world.

    But no solid food generally. If I have to eat I’ll stop working for the day. It’s weird.

  17. I never eat while writing–it’s too messy and distracting. But I do drink. Gin and tonic or Pinot Grigio.

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