15 thoughts on “Write drunk; edit sober.

  1. “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 is almost certainly by a novelist called 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 at that link in The Writer in 1966. 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. Occasionally the quote is attributed to Mark Twain, again without a source. I have no idea why people attribute it to Hemingway, since there is no source for it. Hemingway is a famous name, so the quote spreads like wildfire because of that I suppose. However, there is no source in Hemingway’s works or conversations, so it’s not his quote unfortunately.

  2. Thanks for chiming in David: just the type of fastidiousness I enjoy! My original source did mention that the quote was unverified, but its chief virtue is that it is the type of thing Hemingway would have said, and with his characteristic brevity.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. I use quotes a lot on fb, and I hate to misquote or miscredit.

  4. I was hoping to find a source, but this makes me fairly certain that it is not, in fact, EH. To add to what you’ve said, here is something that is actual EH:

    “My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing.” – A Movable Feast, pg 174.

    Even if he were inclined to break such a rule, I would hardly expect him to express such a fundamentally opposite philosophy.

  5. Like Andy says, Hemingway expressed the *opposite* philosophy. Here’s a (verified!) quote from Hemingway:

    “I have spent all my life drinking, but since writing is my true love I never get the two things mixed up.”

  6. What is the specific source of the “verified” Hemingway quotation, “I have spent all my life drinking, but since writing is my true love I never get the two things mixed up”? Thank you.

  7. @domi: I’m not sure what the source is. And, it should be clear from some of the prior comments that I’m not that useful of a source. :)

  8. If you read some of the interviews with Hemingway (Paris Review, etc.), he states explicitly that he wrote in the mornings BEFORE he started drinking. Hungover, maybe; drunk, definitely not.

  9. In the mid-nineties it was how I wrote all of my university papers: A late night of writing and drinking. The next day to edit ramblings, and find facts to back them up. I described my strategy to my friends thus: “WRITE DRUNK—EDIT SOBER.” I had no idea Hemingway was supposed to have said it; Until today I thought I had made it up myself. Someone must have put the words in my mouth. Any body know the earliest reference to this?

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