Monthly Archives: August 2017

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

Hemingway never said ‘Write Drunk; Edit Sober,’ but he could have. He had much to drink.
Why is this meme so popular? It has face validity. It is a different way of saying when you are writing let your words flow, don’t edit. Why not edit when you are writing? Well, there is a critical part of ourselves that does our editing. It stops creativity and ‘cleans up our language.’ Freud calls this part of our psyche, ‘the Superego.’ Berne called it the ‘Critical Parent.’ Whatever you call it, it functions to stop creativity, fun, free thinking, playfulness, all those things that can go into originality. It only plays by the rules and does things ‘right.’
So, if you want to kill spontaneity, shut down intuitive thinking, stifle creativity, and dampen pleasurable verbiage, edit as you write. If you want to say things in new, unexpected ways, don’t. It’s as easy as that.
Some of my friends say, “I can’t do that. I must edit when I write. If I make an error it bugs me to leave it on the page.” I hear this as, “My Critical Parent is on all the time. Don’t expect me to be fun and playful, I can’t do that.”
By doing this, they are self-limiting in their writing. They’re rule bound. Since our rules come to us during our childhood years, they can’t ‘update’ their rules. The rules come from their real parents or grandparents, their early childhood teachers, and older siblings. Their rules may be from two or three generations ago. That makes their writing seem out of place as writing rules change.
They may be able to change with effort. Critique groups may help them or ‘authorities’ who can override the dated rules of their parents. Even with these kinds of help, they often make the same errors (considering current rules) with help or not as their thinking isn’t flexible.
A self-help trick some people use the technique to disciple themselves is to write as fast as they can. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, with David Wright in “Write, Publish, Repeat,” 2013, $6.00, Kindle, advise: “We strongly believe you should write your first drafts as fast as you can. Now note, that we said, “as you can.” Emphasis on you. Sean and I are both kind of stupidly fast… Writing fast helps you capture your most natural voice.”
I would say the same thing by suggesting writing fast helps you capture your Free Child’s voice, which is more entertaining than your Critical Parent, which at its most entertaining can only achieve droll.