Did Hemingway say “write drunk, edit sober”? Nope—he preferred to write sober.

Writers love to cite Ernest Hemingway’s famous advice, “write drunk, edit sober.” Trouble is, Hemingway never actually said that.

Of course, many people already knew the quote was apocryphal—there’s no source attributing the quote to him at all.

In fact, the closest quote probably first appeared in the 1964 novel Reuben, Reuben by Peter De Vries, and its misattribution to Hemingway may have been influenced by William Faulkner’s drinking habits.

But as we learned today, it wasn’t just that Hemingway didn’t speak those precise words—he actually advised sobriety in the writing process.

Writer’s Digest Books editor Amy Jones was hunting through our archives today and ran into a 1964 article about Hemingway, based on an interview conducted by Edward Stafford before Hemingway’s death in 1961. Check out this passage:

Transcribed in case the image is too grainy to read:

My wife needled him. “Is it true,” she asked, “that you take a pitcher of martinis up into the tower every morning when you go up to write?”

“Jeezus Christ!” Papa was incredulous. “Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes—and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides,” he added, “who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time, anyway?”

Having been guilty of that heresy any number of times, but recognizng his mastery in this field also, I let the question remain rhetorical.

That last line from Stafford is pretty hilarious too, eh?

What do you think? Does a little booze unleash your creativity like Faulkner, or do you prefer sobriety in the writing process like Hemingway?


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