Did Ernest Hemingway ever advise, write drunk edit sober?
Probably not. But it has become one of the most popular fixed expressions for new writers.
If you have just started writing or you are attending writing classes, you must have heard the expression. On social media, writers have used the phrase thousands of times.
Yet the term does not necessarily convey the literal meaning that you should always drink and write. Nor does it mean that you can only edit when you are not taking a proverbial sip.
The confusing origin of to write drunk and edit sober
According to Hemingway’s granddaughter, Mariel, it is not a quote from her grandfather.
“That’s not how he wrote,” the 51-year-old Manhattan actress says of The Old Man and the Sea author. “He never wrote drunk, he never wrote beyond early, early morning.”
She says he is often used to glamourise addiction. “So many writers glorify my grandfather’s way of living as much as they glorify his work. And so they try and mirror that. I think it’s the misperception of addiction and living life on the edge as if it’s cool.” Source
If it wasn’t Hemmingway who wrote drunk, the quote might have originated from a 1964 novel, Reuben, Reuben by the humorist Peter De Vries.
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He always abstained when writing. He drank heavily in between works. He took his life because no one believed him when he claimed his phone was tapped. He was gaslighted by the FBI head to suicide. Later, the file was made public proving the FBI has him under surveillance for years.
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Great additional insight. Thanks.