Hemingway: Master of the Sound Bite

Ernest Hemingway hemingway[1]

Hemingway was a master of the sound bite before the sound bite existed – write drunk, edit sober. Genius is short and sweet – honed down to the pure essence of meaning.

Let’s expand Mr. Hemingway’s meaning beyond his well-documented love of drink. Writing drunk could mean writing completely soused with what one is engaged in, totally inebriated with the work, drunk on the possibilities. It could mean working within an altered state of being. It might mean writing with a blind eye to everyone and everything. It most certainly indicates a total investment of time and energy.

Edit sober – out of the flow of creativity we enter a disciplined arena where we train clear eyes on what we have written. Being sober speaks to the need for reflection and clarity. Editing is obviously not a process that lends itself to reckless abandon.

I believe the most important message to take from this interpretation of Hemingway’s wisdom is that writing and editing are two different processes, quite possibly exclusive of one another. Let yourself go when you create – rein yourself in when you edit. I wish you the best of luck with both processes.

I wonder what Mr. Hemingway would have had to say about marketing and promoting. At this point they strike me as pursuits that could lend themselves to true drunkenness – just joking – sort of.


(When I thought of altered states of reality, I was reminded of this photo of poppies that we took when we were touring the grounds of Stanford University in California.)