Bad Writing Advice, Updated

In case you’ve never heard it, or maybe you have but forgot it, Ernest Hemingway’s advice to budding authors was “Write drunk; edit sober.” I’ve updated that to be more appropriate for the 21st century:

write stoned

And hey! It’s definitely for the “budding” author! But I digress.

Why I Always Write Straight or Sober

Look, I think we can all agree that Hemingway was a pretty good author even when he was sober. And I can’t say that I’ve read anything he wrote while drunk. On the other hand, he was a self-centered, ungrateful bastard to his friends. After Gertrude Stein taught him how to write dialog, he thanked her by not writing or speaking to her for several decades.

Writing is, to me, a release, an outlet, therapy. I rarely write my blogs for anyone else. The fact that some people have discovered the blog is just frosting on the cake. But as a very wise POTUS once said, “Don’t misunderestimate me.”

I’m glad that you found me. I’m even more glad when a few of you keep coming back: it lets me know that I’m not alone in this bad acid trip life is for far too many of us. And I’m very glad to think that maybe, just maybe I’ve struck a common chord between us, or even helped one of you. It makes me think that I haven’t been wasting my time writing.

I Tried Writing While Stoned

I mean, I just had to see if that advice was good or bad. Helpful or not helpful. For me, it didn’t work out.

I kept getting lost in the mechanics of writing. I’d write a sentence and then zone out wondering why it took designers so long to introduce illuminated keyboards so that I could write in the night. So I’d have to launch Google and try to find an answer, only to discover 15 minutes later that I was searching for philosophical rather than mechanical issues. Then I’d remember what I had started doing in the first place, shut down my browser, and write another word, sentence, paragraph before I’d zone out again and repeat the whole process all over again.

A Bitter Truth

In their pre-legalization publication of A Child’s Garden of Grass, Richard Clorfene and Jack S. Margolis made the claim that “There is no such thing as a profound thought when you’re stoned.” That was true in the early ‘70s, and I find it to be just as true—even more so—today. It’s too much like looking through kaleidoscope glasses:


And forget about writing drunk, too: at first I get relaxed, then I get happy, and then I stop drinking and go to bed, because I know if I keep drinking right along with everybody else, I’ll turn into a crass, sloppy, bitter drunk who offends everyone present. As Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s gotta know his limits. That’s from The Outlaw, Josey Wales.

As always, the standard disclaimer applies.What works for me might not work for you. The best advice I can offer on the subject is this: Find whatever works best for you, and go with it.

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