“Write drunk; edit sober”



This oft-quoted advice is usually attributed to Ernest Hemingway, although verification is illusive. I like the quote, though. I’ve even tried the first part a couple of times out of desperation to get some writing done, hoping a little wine would silence the inner critic that ties me in knots.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, after a glass or two of wine, I just tend to fall asleep, which is not very conducive to writing. images

The concept holds true, though. Alcohol tends to make one uninhibited and that is, after all, the best way to write. My favorite way of simulating the “write drunk” credo is to write really fast, outpacing the detractor.

A case in point: When I wrote a memoir piece for an anthology (see Slants of Light), I had to dig deep into an old wound. Three or four ten-minute sprints produced the gist of the story. (I used Shimmering Images by Lisa Dale Norton as my guide.) I won’t say that was the easy part, but once I’d ripped the bandaid off and bled onto the page, I could sit back and see the patterns in the splatter.

A bit dramatic, perhaps, but writing fast enough to drown out the censoring voices works for any kind of writing. It is only when we write without worrying about consequences that we honor our own truth.

But fast, free, unfettered writing is only half the story. Just as imbibing a little fruit of the grape in the evening can bring on a headache in the morning, facing your uncensored scribblings might take some aspirin and a strong cuppa Joe.


Now it’s time to slow down and let the inner critics catch up. No, not the ones who only offer vague, destructive, smart-ass remarks like, “This really sucks” or “Go back to bed; you’ll never be a writer.” But rather the voices–internal and external–that are your allies in the creative process.

To continue with my earlier example, I subjected the same anthology piece to three critique sessions and multiple revisions before I deemed it worthy of publication. Writing “drunk” (or a facsimile thereof) can allow your subconscious to bring forth ideas that might otherwise never see the light. Some clearheaded editing can shape those thoughts into even more powerful prose.

imagesSo that is my creative process. How about you? Do you write a fast first draft, then painstakingly edit? Or do you edit as you go?