Advice to Writers from Ernest Hemingway: Write Drunk; Edit Sober

December 7, 2011

in Life Lessons

I have been stuck. For the first time since starting this blog, I have struggled with writing. While Ernest Hemingway probably took his own advice literally, it resonated for me this week figuratively:

“Write drunk; edit sober.”

My writing struggle has not been a Jack-Torrence-like* problem; I have not been staring at a blank screen with an inability to write. My problem has been more an issue with a self-imposed moratorium on writing about relationships. Add to this dilemma one of my last posts I described breaking up with a guy and alluded to the fact that I would never date again in another.

So how do I proceed in my writing when Cupid unexpectedly hits me, not with an arrow, but a 2 X 4?

With the wonderful experiences and feelings I am having with my boyfriend, it is hard to ignore the pink elephant in the room while writing about something else. Choosing to not write what is most on my mind and my heart is impossible. This extraordinary and unexpected experience is not something to ignore, but I was at a loss how to approach the topic here. What happened, as a result of my struggles, was to stop writing. It has not felt right to be without this creative outlet, but avoidance seemed to be my short-term solution.

I am in charge of this site and control content. So what was I struggling with then? These are my rules to set, break, change, and bend.

Naked Girl was started to chronicle my journey of becoming free, happy and uninhibited after ending a very difficult marriage. This blog is about fearlessly redefining life at any age. How can I claim any progress with inhibition if I set rules on my blog that I am afraid to break?

So, inspired by a drunk Hemingway, I can write again without getting caught up in thinking too much.

It’s time to let go and write.

I can always edit in the morning.

*reference to Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Crayon Wrangler December 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm

OMG…it’s like we are living parallel lives. I too have struggled not to write about new love. Especially after everything that has happened. I felt I was betraying my readers. Reality I was betraying myself and silencing my voice. The truth is most want a happy ending…they want to see a knight rush in…even if it doesn’t turn out well. Even if they are just trying to win a side wager of $5 on the time limit. Doesn’t matter. You withhold your “YOU” and you can’t write as you. Period. Love ya!
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for visiting and for the wonderful comment. Great insight! Love you too Alycia!


Vinny C December 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Soooo… Did you get drunk? You seemed to have avoided giving a direct answer to that ;)

Glad you’re back.
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

Very funny Vinny! No, I actually wrote and edited sober. I know that is disappointing to you, isn’t it?


StoriesAndSweetPotatoes December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

I love the honestly of this post. I think we all struggle with these same things, wondering if people will think we’re hypocrites if some small contradictions creep into our writing. But life changes and I think readers just want honesty, no matter how complicated it may seem to US. I hope you wrote something and I hope we get to see a version of it soon!
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

Thank you for the wonderful comment! Since writing the “Hemingway post,” my fingers have been flying. I feel like I am finally back as a writer. Just letting readers know what has been going on in the absence of my posts seemed to be what was needed to fix this writing break. I am working on a post for today, have something written for tomorrow, and look forward to getting back on track with my Sunday Wrap-Up post this weekend. Finally!


Jenn @therebelchick December 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I used to try writing when I’d had a few to drink, but it never seemed as inspired in the morning!
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Lauren December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

THANK YOU!! Thank you for this wisdom. It’s been hard for me to write lately. Sometimes Life comes along and turns you inside-out and upside-down, which can make writing joyfully quite hard, can’t it?

So, here’s to the nip of whiskey I’ll be pouring myself in a few hours’ time, and here’s me toasting you!
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 15, 2011 at 11:51 am

Thanks for visiting Lauren! Hope the whiskey improved your writing. And yes, life can get in the way of writing. It is frustrating.


DavidA December 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

“Write drunk; edit sober” sounds good, but the problem is that it’s not by Hemingway. The quote is all over the internet being attributed to EH, but no one ever gives a source in Hemingway’s works or conversations. This is because the quote almost certainly has its source in a novel by Peter De Vries. He published a novel called “Reuben, Reuben” in 1964, where the main character is based on a famous drunkard poet, Dylan Thomas. On page 242 the character says this:

“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.”

The book is out of print I think, and I only found the quote because it was quoted by The Writer in 1966, which happens to be on Google Books. Oddly enough, some people online attribute the quote to Dylan Thomas, again without giving a source in Thomas. They don’t realise that they are quoting the words a novelist put in the mouth of a character based on Thomas. I have no idea why people attribute it to Heminway, since there is no source for it. Hemingway is a famous name, so the quote spreads like wildfire because of that I suppose.


Naked Girl in a Dress December 20, 2011 at 7:43 am

Thank you for providing this background information.


Marie Nicole August 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I couldn’t imagine your blog without any mentions about relationships. Isn’t silly the silly phases we go through? And yes. Always edit in the morning, after the drunk effect has passed, sometimes it’s still there. What? 1 am is morning right? Don’t ever forget that.
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Naked Girl in a Dress August 14, 2012 at 10:18 am

It is silly. Why would I set rules on my own blog and then feel afraid to break them?? I loved your Hemingway submission this week.


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