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Written by JJ Barnes

If you’ve been exploring different kinds of writing advice, you’ll no doubt have come across the advice to write drunk and edit sober. It’s given regularly, and often in a pretty little meme with a curly font. But, in honesty, is it ever useful?

Why Write Drunk?

The advice to write drunk COULD be considered useful for these two reasons:

  1. When you’re drunk you lose your inhibitions
  2. In vino veritas
Write Drunk Edit Sober, JJ Barnes Writing Advice
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Lose Your Inhibitions

When you start writing you can get up in your head. You worry about your story structure, characterisation, and foreshadowing. You are concerned about your spelling and grammar, whether your sentences are beautiful. The fear of not constructing the most perfect and beautiful story in the world can block you from creating any story.

When you lose you inhibitions, all that goes away. You can just write. Not think about the future, not think about the consequences. Just write. Let the story flow out of you and see where it goes. Being drunk takes away you inhibitions for trying to be perfect. Or even trying to be right. You just do it and see what happens.

When your inhibitions are gone, you’ll get your story written. After that you’ll have a messy first draft to edit, but you’ll have a first draft. You’ll have a completed story.

In Vino Veritas

Write Drunk Edit Sober, JJ Barnes Writing Advice
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In vino veritas means, basically, in wine there is truth. The best writing is the most honest. It’s where you face your fears, bleed onto the page, pull on your most human of experiences and live them through your characters. The truth can be painful and it can be challenging to write. But it’s real and it will make your characters and story feel real.

When you’re drunk, you let it all out. You cry in the bathroom, you fight with your enemy. You tell the person you’re in love with that you want them desperately, and risk your heart. When you write drunk, that truth becomes your story. Your story will benefit so much from that level of honesty and raw energy.

Do You Really Need To Write Drunk?

Write drunk edit sober, JJ Barnes Writing Advice
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In short, no. You don’t really need to write drunk in order to get the effects of writing drunk. However, losing your inhibitions and writing your truth are still pieces of advice I would give.

Write drunk on creativity. Let your passion and love of the craft fill you and ignore all your fears. Imposter syndrome might try and silence you. Writer’s block might try and stop you from moving forwards. But try, with all your might, to let them go. Don’t be stopped. Write with love and passion and madness, and write with freedom. You don’t have to literally get drunk, but you do have to loosen yourself free from the constraints that make you scared of making mistakes.

Embrace the chaos of a first draft because in that there is energy. It will need taming and it will need guidance. But it will be real and it will be passionate and it will be exciting. That is your truth, and that is your story. Neatening it comes later. Getting it out is the first thing you have to do.

Why Edit Sober?

Write Drunk Edit Sober, JJ Barnes Writing Advice
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The advice of edit sober is because this is where you tame the drunk. You take that creative mess of passion and love and chaos, and turn it into something beautiful. If you edit drunk, you’ll miss the mess. Edit sober on the craft of writing. The things you’ve studied.

Edit with thoughts of foreshadowing, narrative triplets and plot twists. Bring your knowledge of creating backstory for your characters, and your ideas for a three act structure to create a natural rise and fall through your story. There’s so much beauty in sewing these techniques into your story.

Edit with a sober look at what you created so you can see what is the beautiful truth and what is the mess. Your sober brain will see the opportunities in your first draft to create something truly wonderful.

You Can’t Edit A Blank Page

The freedom to create something messy can be incredibly liberating. So give it to yourself. Nobody but you needs to see that first draft. It’s just for you to explore and edit as needed. And you can’t edit a blank page. So write drunk on as much freedom and creativity as you can give yourself, and enjoy this thing we love so much called writing.

More From JJ Barnes:

I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.

You can find links to all my work and social media on my website:

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Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose

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