A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 05, 2012
“Write drunk, edit sober”

"Write drunk, edit sober” ha been printed on many gift items, such as posters, mugs and T-shirts. The one-line saying has usually been attributed to writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), but has also been credited to the writers James Joyce (1882-1941) and Mark Twain (1835-1910). There is no evidence that any of them ever said it.

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober” was said by the writer in the novel Reuben, Reuben (1964) by American author Peter De Vries (1910-1993).

“Write drunk and edit sober” was cited in print in 1984. The saying was explained in 2001 as an “old newsroom adage.”

[This entry was assisted by research from the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Peter De Vries
Peter De Vries (February 27, 1910 – September 28, 1993) was an American editor and novelist known for his satiric wit. He has been described by the philosopher Daniel Dennett as “probably the funniest writer on religion ever”.

Google Books
Reuben, Reuben
By Peter De Vries
Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company
1964
Pg. 242:
He remembered something he had told a New York journalist in an interview about his “working habits,” a dull subject about which people remained curiously interested in the case of writers and artists. “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober,” he had said, “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.”

3 December 1984, Sacramento (CA) Bee, “Drying Out,” pg. B3:
Write drunk and edit sober, was the first lesson a veteran gave me when I went to work in San Francisco years ago.

Google Books
Cats of Any Color:
Jazz Black and White

By Gene Lees
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
1995
Pg. 92:
I have said repeatedly that you can write drunk, but you have to edit sober.

Google Books
Half Crazy: a novel
By J. M. McDonell
Beverly Hills, CA: New Millennium Press
2000
Pg. 122:
Back home, I followed part one of Joyce’s dictum to write drunk and edit sober.

Google Books
Computer Gaming World
Volumes 191-194
2000
Pg. ?:
My excuse is Mark Twain, who said, “Write drunk, edit sober.”

Google Books
Introduction to Online Journalism:
Publishing News and Information

By Roland De Wolk
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon
2001
Pg. 127:
Write drunk. Edit sober. — Old newsroom adage

Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer
Interview: Allan Leverone, Author of Final Vector
By APRIL POHREN, BLOGCRITICS.ORG
Updated 2:28 p.m., Tuesday, April 26, 2011
(...)
What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?
Supposedly Ernest Hemingway said, “Write drunk; edit sober,” which might explain why writing is so much more fun than editing, although the wisdom of that advice is open to debate.

Google Books
Zero to 100,000:
Social Media Tips and Tricks for Small Businesses

By Sarah-Jayne Gratton and Dean A. Gratton
Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc/
2012
Pg. X:
Our immense gratitude to Pedro Huyse and Rodney Holvoet at De Rotonde, Gent, Belgium, who kindly helped us maintain our mantra,“Write drunk, edit sober,” but most of all, being great and very dear supportive friends; we miss you both.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Wednesday, December 05, 2012 • Permalink