“Write Drunk, Edit Sober”- Ernest Hemingway
Most writers have read these words at some point while surfing the internet. Many have even bought a picture with this quote written in fancy typography and have given it a place of honor above their desk.
Disregarding the fact that Ernest Hemingway apparently never said this (oops), is it a good idea to write while you’re drunk? Do you become a better writer when intoxicated?
I will speak for myself.
Yes. Yes, I do.
But not really.
Most writers I know (myself included) suffer from crippling self-doubt. We have an invisible critic reading over our shoulder at all times as we work on projects, their faces grimacing as they catch every awkward transition and plothole. They tell us that we should have become a registered nurse like our relatives advised. That we’ll be working in retail for the rest of our lives with a drawer full of stories that will never be read or published.
Drinking alcohol is like having someone hit that critic upside the head with a fold-up chair, then body slamming him John Cena style until he is a pulp.
Without the critic constantly turning his nose up at my work, it becomes easier to write. I’m more likely to experiment with turns of phrase or metaphors than I would be if I were writing sober. When I reread what I wrote the next morning it is usually a solid piece.
But did the alcohol make me a better writer?
What the alcohol did was show me what I can accomplish if I turn off (or just dial down) my inner critic and give myself the freedom to create.
If you’re an E.L. James you are not going to become a Charles Dickens after a few whisky shots.
Alcohol is not a magic potion and becoming an alcoholic won’t make you a best-selling author.
It’ll make you an alcoholic.
It’s okay to have a few drinks every now and then to unwind. However, it’s a bad idea to use it like medicine for your insecurities because that can lead to dependancy.
The best thing any writer can do for themselves is push through the negativity.
This is easier said than done, I realize. Nonetheless, the alternative would be not writing at all, or indulging in a potentially dangerous habit.