Since my last post about writing and alcohol was such a hit (#2 in page views), I thought it was time for more shameless pandering to the masses with another post about drinking:
HOW TO GO OUT FOR DRINKS AS A WRITER
Alcoholism at home is easy: take a glass, add gin, empty and repeat. In public, this unfortunately makes you look less like a tortured artist seeking relief from the agonizing tedium of the world, and more like a stevedore. A little class is called for! In boozing it up in public you join the ranks of Hemingway, Faulkner, Poe, the Fitzgeralds, and many other great writers (all of whom died either young, unhappy, or both, it’s worth noting), so get it right.
First off, have the money. It’s okay if it’s borrowed (another great writerly habit), but have cash to throw about when you hit the bars. If you can’t afford to drink signature cocktails and tip extravagantly, you can’t afford to go out. Stay in and swill gin instead, secure in the knowledge that it, too, is traditional. Keep in mind that cash means cash, not money in the bank and a debit card — small bills are going to make your night much easier, and help with the second key point to remember…
Be able to get prompt service. You’re a writer — a man or woman of letters, a thinker; a dreamer. Standing at the bar drumming your fingertips is for pissants. You’re going to be the extravagant, extroverted figure that the bartender gravitates toward naturally, and you’re going to do it by tipping like a motherfucker. Don’t be shy about having cash in your hand when you step up to the bar (but don’t wave it at the poor bartender, and don’t yell “Hey Chief” or anything like that — a simple wave of the fingertips or a nod is all it takes). Order your drinks promptly (see the next point), and then lay down the cash for them. When the change comes, shove ten or twenty bucks back across and say “Cheers, that’s yours” or something like that (the exact dollar amount should be around the value of two drinks off the bar’s list). Smile cheerfully, so you can’t possibly be mistaken for a rich, condescending asshole — you’re piling money on the bar because you’re a friendly guy, and the bartender wants to come see your smiling face again!
Know your drink. Especially your first drink — if you look like one of those indecisive drinkers who hover over the specials list before making up their minds, the bartender is going to give you lots of time, i.e., not come around as often. Find a well-known cocktail that you can reasonably expect most bartenders to know and rely on it as a fallback if nothing jumps out at you on a first quick glance at the drink list. If you like it a specific way go right ahead and tell the bartender, but be good-natured about it, and know the lingo. A more obscure cocktail is fine — “Do you know how to make a…?” — but only if it’s reasonably simple and uses ingredients that any bar could be expected to have, and even then it’s not something you want to do if the bar is busy.
Ordering a “Vesper,” whether it’s from the movie or the novel version of Casino Royale, will always make you look like a dillweed.
Have an open presence. Don’t hunch over your drink. Smile and nod at the people to either side of you when you take your seat. If they seem friendly and want to go for the handshake and introductions, go for it. Start right off with the job-talk, because that lets you start flaunting your exalted status as a writer as soon as possible! Be modest about it, of course — it ain’t no thang, you’re just a genius. Why yes, they can find some examples of your work online. Here’s your card.
Have a business card. Kind of says it all. If (like me) you float from job to job while writing and don’t want cards that go obsolete every few years, there is nothing wrong with your name and number printed in black on a white card. You’re not looking to impress people with your graphic design skills; you’re looking to give them the information they need to find your webpage, writing, etc.
Write. You’re a writer, right? It’s expected that you will occasionally jot something down in your notebook or on a cocktail napkin. Don’t overuse the sudden grab for the napkin, as if you have just had a bolt of inspiration from the blue, but feel free to scribble on them nonchalantly. Be prepared to tell people exactly what you’re working on when they inevitably say “Whatcha up to?” You don’t want the answer to be “Oh, I’m not sure, just something that popped into my head.” It should be more along the lines of “Oh, I just had a good idea for a scene in a novel I’m writing, and I didn’t want to lose it.” Then when they ask, tell them what the novel’s about…