We love quotes. Quotes are fun. They inspire. They make you laugh. They make you think. And of the most popular quotes for writers is “Write drunk, edit sober”. It needs no explaining, and it sounds absolutely good.
I learned one thing today, though. While it has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway, it seems that the writer didn’t really say/write it. Sure, he liked his drink, but no evidence has been found to prove that.
According to Quote Investigator:
The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in the 1964 novel “Reuben, Reuben” by the humorist Peter De Vries which included a character named Gowan McGland whose behaviors and eccentricities were partially modeled on the prominent Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
At the beginning of chapter twenty-one McGland was reviewing a previously written draft of a poem. Now that he was sober he excised two lines that he considered dreadful. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
He remembered something he had told a New York journalist in an interview about his “working habits,” a dull subject about which people remained curiously interested in the case of writers and artists. “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober,” he had said, “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.”
Regardless of who said it, reading “writing drunk and editing sober” makes writers get that bottle of wine conveniently within reach knowing that they are following in the footsteps of giants. And enjoying it, too.
Fun as the statement may be, does it hold water?
Science has the answer, and the infographic below puts together the findings of studies involving alcohol consumption and its effects on humans. It then takes these findings and applies them to the activity we all love: writing.
So, what’s the science behind writing drunk and editing sober?
Take a look at the graphic and find out.