Write Sober, Edit Sober

A quote often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway was actually spoken by author Peter De Vries (1910-1993) who said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” This is not sage advice and I don’t recommend attempting to follow it, unless you deem yourself somewhat of a fraud.

A true author (and by “true”, I mean someone who takes their craft seriously and is not just out for monetary gain by plastering trifle-laden words all over the internet), is someone who bleeds their very soul on paper. It is the same as walking around town without a band-aid on your cut; exposed, raw and deliciously real.

If you write drunk, you are no longer that person – that artist who paints pictures with words. You are, in fact, someone else. Imagine your much younger self waking up in your college dorm with an unidentifiable “booty call” by your side. You stealthily retreat from bed, careful not to wake said partner, barricade yourself in the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror. You ask yourself, “What have I done? I would never have done that sober.”

Such is the drunk writer. I understand that you are meant to edit sober, but, in my opinion, you are still “cheating”. You are still forcing your words to escape through the fingertips of an impostor. You are, if you will, writing from another realm and it’s like you are plagiarizing your own self. You are stealing from your true self, so to speak.

Frankly, if you are not able to write sans alcohol, you are not a writer. Writing is meaningless if you are not speaking from somewhere deep inside and I don’t mean the part of you that is suddenly hungry for a Big Mac at midnight to soak up all that booze you consumed.

Personally, I would forever feel like my work was not really my work and I wouldn’t be okay with that. When I put my name on my covers, it’s because I’m proud of what’s inside and because when you read my stories, you are reading a very part of me. Had I penned my novels while drunk, I would forever imagine myself staring in that dorm room bathroom mirror and feel embarrassed at the sight of myself. You’ll have a perpetual hangover when you realize your one star reviews could have been avoided. You’ll cringe at the five star reviews knowing that you didn’t merit them since you would never describe The Eiffel Tower as a “mistress of the night wearing steel garters”. I mean, maybe you would, but you don’t deserve the praise if you were “inhibited” (read: inebriated).

Save that wine, beer or whisky for celebrating – after you’ve written “The End”. The real you will thank you for it.

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