Writing Drunk

writedrunkWrite drunk, edit sober. –Ernest Hemingway (supposedly)


“Write drunk, edit sober” – those are the famous words often attributed to Ernst Hemingway. The truth is he probably didn’t say those words, but it hasn’t stopped other writers using it as a technique to improve their writing.

After all, many brilliant writers were also heavy drinkers, including David Foster Wallace, Edgar Allan Poe, Truman Capote, and of course Hemingway himself.

The question remains: does drinking help the writing process?

The Expert Editor decided to look at the science behind writing drunk and editing sober. Check it out below.

The Science Behind Writing Drunk and Editing Sober (+ Infographic)

Thank you to Rachael Liu from the Expert Editor (UK/Australia) for sharing this informative infographic on the effects of alcohol… coffee!

Drinking while writing the first draft has actually been a beneficial experience for me (but only after 11pm). Surprisingly enough, while tipsy and writing, those tip-of-the-tongue words come to me so much faster than when I’m not under the influence. Or do they…?

Before I go on here, I’m not pushing alcohol on anyone here. It can be addictive for some, and alcohol reacts differently on everyone. So please don’t think I’m condoning drinking. I strongly believe in “to each his own” … as long as it’s not criminal.

So that being said, when I drink, I get happy. My introverted self becomes a bit more sociable. So why not try writing while tipsy? I did. On the upside, I wrote faster because I wasn’t hung up on “is this worded correctly” and “I’m not afraid to write down my first intuitive thought,” so there is a constant flow of words. On the downside, I rambled a little too much, and spelling and grammatical errors abounded. However, this isn’t a big deal to me because I only do this for the first draft. Getting the initial story written down is imperative.

Now I wouldn’t recommend using alcohol to fuel technical writing. I couldn’t imagine the amount of editing that would be required for fact-based writing. Unless you use tags to indicate something that needs precise thought.My only advice to alcohol and writing fiction is that it would probably be helpful to work with an outline to keep your writing in line. Even then, drunk writing is privy to meandering and wandering. It was an interesting thing to write drunk.


Do you, or have you, written tipsy/drunk? Have you found it a help or a hindrance? I would love to hear your thoughts!

12 responses to “Writing Drunk

    • That very well could be! I suppose some (a good portion?) of us like to take that literally as an excuse to have a drink. I just read an article about someone who tried the drinking/sober thing for a week, it’s an interesting (and pretty accurate) essay if you’re curious: https://t.co/WabpR7Peof

      I’ve gotten much better than I used to, but I tend to overthink when I’m writing fiction. The alcohol suppressed that hang-up.

      Like your thought, this is the quote where this false Hemingway quote probably came from: “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.” ― Peter De Vries


    • All writing, fiction and nonfiction, is work, but I think creative writing can be mixed with a little alcohol from time to time, if that’s the writer’s thing. Just my opinion. I don’t think I would mix that with editing, though.

      And I definitely can’t see where a splash of alcohol would be helpful in any attorney’s office, university, or what have you! Imagine!


  1. I don’t recall ever having done any drunk writing, not even in my student days. But I can see some kind of logic behind it. Like yourself, I do tend to open up more when drunk so maybe that would translate to writing…
    Perhaps it’s time for an experiment..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interestingly enough, I’ve always heard about the glass of wine/rum/whiskey/what-have-you as a prelude to writing, but I hadn’t tried this writing-while-inebriated thing until recently. I don’t make a common practice of it due to other responsibilities, but it’s worth a try at least once, just to experience another “side” of writing. It really does something with the internal inhibition. Let me know how it goes! Editing is a must, but it’s also a given, inebriated or not (:

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think maybe writing with a glass of wine on the side isn’t such a bad thing. But drunk…hmmm, I don’t know. I agree with Danielle, I think it’s more metaphorical than realistic. Now sitting out on a moonlit night with a bottle of wine or sake and getting a true buzz on, hey that sometimes works for ideas…of course I have to write them down immediately. And yeah, sober they are usually worthless, but it was fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quite right, writing tipsy, or having just enough to loosen up (which was my experiment) is probably a better idea than all-out fall-down drunk! Disastrous, actually, I would think. The words seem to come out easier, but I do wonder if that’s just the alcohol speaking for itself. I think it’s important that writers shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. We can’t take the joy out of writing, or else we lose our passion and drive. So yes, a small detour once in a while is a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve written tipsy, but not drunk drunk… I’m a lightweight at the best of times anyway, haha, so it doesn’t take much. But I too am cheerful when tipsy, and I haven’t noticed a huge difference in how I write while in that state but I think it does quiet my inner editor and give my writing speed a boost.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We have some experience writing while tipsy. Completely agree with you, it’s loosens the tongue (or hand maybe?), and the humor comes out.
    We review movies with a drink in hand. So if you like movies reviews, check us out on all of your favorite podcasting venues or here on WordPress.

    Liked by 1 person

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