Most of the writers I have encountered at the very least enjoy a glass of wine or two at readings, while writing, because it is Tuesday, etc. One of my professors recently argued for a drink before a reading, or ‘at least a xanax’. As someone who is about to marry a home brewer of beer, my house is usually full of beer, making it easy for me to fall into this category of ‘drinking writers’ or ‘writing drinkers’. What I don’t think many writers realize about what they’re imbibing is that the process for writing something amazing and creating something amazing to drink is very similar.
In the brewing process, much like the writing process, you start out by reading. Books on home brewing are beginning to rival books of poetry in my house. You read and you read and you especially read the old guys’ stuff, in this case as in literature hundreds of years old, and then you try to forget that and read what the new people are doing, which is often strange and exciting and collaborative. The way that the internet is bringing together writers across continents mirrors the way the internet has enabled collaborative brewing to flourish.
In particular, I see easy comparisons between the hypercurrent use of google docs to create multimedia pieces of writing and the brewing world’s new fascination with using nearly anything they can to make newer, weirder beers. This doesn’t always work but is somehow always exciting.
Once you’ve got your recipe figured out and you sit down and brew or write, the metaphor starts to break down. Writers tend to edit compulsively, especially in the current era where ink doesn’t really matter and hands don’t really cramp up so much. With beer, once it’s in the bottle or keg it’s brewing in, it has to sit untouched for three weeks. How much can your work change if it sits for three weeks? How much do you ferment over that time?
Some beer challenges for your writing:
1. Belgian Challenge– Write a piece you were planning on writing. Collect newspaper articles for three weeks once it is done. After three weeks use random bits of the articles in your already-written piece of writing. This is like the open-vat Belgian beers, which ferment and brew with no lids on the vats, allowing wild yeast in to build flavor.
2. German Challenge– Use only forms for three weeks, or one ‘brewing cycle’. The Reinheitsgebot was a law in Germany which forbid using any ingredients in beer except water, barley and hops.
3. American Challenge– Collaborate and get out into your culture. American craft brewers have tried very hard to create and reinvent the culture surrounding brewing, which was basically destroyed by prohibition. In a way, the internet became a prohibition for writers, as bookstores failed dramatically. What is occurring now is a double renaissance. Get into it.