Ink-Stained Frustrations · Technicalities of Writing

“Write drunk, edit sober”, Ernest Hemingway?

Jodie recently posted a piece considering the quote “Write drunk, edit sober” by Ernest Hemingway, which has started me thinking. Is this something that works? Has anyone tried it, other than Ernest Hemingway?

My research surprised me, it turns out that this quote is not even from Hemingway. Reading about his writing routine, it makes sense that he would not have even suggested this. He appears too strict about the idea that one should write like it is work. This appears to be a reoccurring idea amongst the prolific writers of history. So when you think about it, the possibility this came from a fictional character is interesting.

Another interpretation I have come across is that “sober” and “drunk” here are actually your two inner selves, your inner creative and your inner critic. The suggested full quote, points to this concept plain and clear.

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.” from The Writer


This idea that we have two inner forces is certainly poetic, but makes sense. I often feel there is an inner self attached to the emotion and passion, while another inner self rakes through every word debating and considering, wanting it all to be perfect.

So the quote is not actually about creating under the influence, but it would still be interesting to try. General opinion appears to be that drugs and perhaps even alcohol can enhance creativity. The research is rather prolific and I will delve into it for you. There does seem to be a connection between certain drugs and creativity increase, yet the hard worker is often sober.

What are your thoughts? Experiences?


4 thoughts on ““Write drunk, edit sober”, Ernest Hemingway?

  1. Yes,Hemingway’s advice works. First, you must be a drinker. Second, you must like booze. Third, writing something disgusting or difficult seems impossible without drink. Fourth, alcohol let me finish some works, and not for the worst.
    However, I don’t know how some writers who begin drinking and next write do that.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I truly find this concept fascinating. I have never tried it and I am not a drinker, so perhaps I will never quite understand it.

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