Write Drunk, Edit Sober: How Hemingway’s Advice Will Get You Through College

Ah, Hemingway; the man who made the typewriter cool, won a Nobel Prize for his influence in contemporary literature, and most importantly, shared advice to struggling writers that lives on even past his time. I wouldn’t be where I am today without good ‘ole Ernest. Throughout my four years of college, I’ve kept his advice with me when times got a little hard, and I will never be able to thank him for it. That magical four word phrase made all those late nights a little more bearable…

“Write Drunk, Edit Sober.”

Now, I know that this advice is supposed to be for ‘creative’ writing, but I couldn’t help but see it’s relevance for all types of writing throughout my four years of college. From research papers to creative non-fiction, this advice has never let me down. Hemingway was seriously on to something. Sure, it sounds crazy to drink in the middle of an assignment, but odds are that it’ll help you, just like it helped me.

Don’t believe me? Exhibit A:

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This is me writing a 12-page research paper. I got an A on the paper and a D in style. I was stuck forever trying to figure out how I wanted to organize the paper, but then a little liquid writing fluid came along and I managed to get it all done and submitted before midnight. All thanks go to my main man Hemingway.

Shortly after, between the happy dances and cheesy thank you speeches, I went to give the textbook back to my classmate and this happened:

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But regardless, an A’s an A. I went to Ohio University, and this wasn’t really frowned upon. Whether you’re going out, or just hanging out with some friends, casually sipping while writing a research paper is a complete “you do you” situation. Sure, following Hemingway’s advice always eventually took me away from my computer and off to Court Street, but I always got the work finished, and when it was all said and done, even graduated with honors.

But research papers aren’t the only assignment that the timeless advice helped me get through. Eventually I developed an interest in nonfiction creative writing and was forced to tap into things called emotions. I highly recommend avoiding this at all cost. The writing, fun. The feeling, not so fun.

Hemingway also said,

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

The man wasn’t saying that for no reason. In order to get a great story out, you need to put a little bit of yourself into it. So, how do you tap into that emotion? You follow another piece of Ernest’s advice and drink.

I decided to write a story about a near-fatal car accident that my mom was in when I was younger. Because I was so young, I had to use an interview technique to make sure the background story was accurate—that was the easy part. The hard part came when I had to actually write about my emotions. Thankfully, I had some California Red to help me along.

Instead of just making the piece more bearable to write, like it did my research paper, it opened me up about my experiences and allowed me to let go of everything that I was holding off about. The words spilled out and magic happened. That’s when I truly knew that this advice was much more than just a fluke.

Now I’d like to clarify something: by no means do I suggest downing a quart of whiskey a day, like Hemingway did. I do suggest grabbing a glass of wine (or two) and letting your thoughts fly out of you without thinking. It’s a beautiful feeling.

With just one glass of wine, my non-fiction creative writing piece turned out to be so powerful, that it was published in my school’s literary magazine. Thanks, Hem.

Bottom line, I recommend this writing technique to everyone looking for a little more fuel to get him or her through the assignment. Ditch that nasty, sugar-filled Red Bull and grab something that you actually want to drink. Just don’t go overboard.

Sometimes I sit back and think, what would E.Hem think if he saw the way I used his advice? Honestly, I think he would be happy to know that it came in handy. Not only did it open my mind up and give me the creativity to get through the piece that I was writing, but it kept me in the social loop as well. So next time that you’re stuck in front of the computer in a weird mixture of laziness and writing block, grab a glass of wine. Just don’t forget to spill a little for your Nobel Prize writing homie.

And please, for the love of writing, drink responsibly.

Featured image via author.


  1. I love this concept. Having fun while staying studious is important. Since Hemingway did it, we can too, right? Totally going to test this soon.


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