write drunk, edit sober?

There’s a quote commonly misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, where he supposedly said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” The idea is interesting — letting your creative process loose, free of inhibitions, and going back afterwards to ensure clarity and cohesion.

But the actual quote, so they say, is by Peter De Vries, and it goes more like this: “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, 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.”

I quite like both quotes, and included them here because I did, in fact, write this while drinking — not drunk, but certainly buzzed and getting a little spinny.

It was strange working on it with alcohol in my blood — a lot of memories came flooding back to me very unexpectedly while writing, and I felt quite emotional when I finished it. Partly sue to the whiskey, of course, but I think also because I’d addressed some memories that I must have repressed or something. And now that I have some distance from those times and can look at them with some objectivity, I’m glad to have them back. Whatever happened later, some of them were nice moments.

Anyway. My tipsy, lilting, memory-unearthing piece is below.

stolen identity

I wrote you poetry and crafted you gifts

I loved all your dark and twisted corners

I fell so hard that I didn’t question why the landing hurt

If all the world truly was a stage

you were the best actor I’ve seen

Midnight on a mattress

a gasp, a tear,

a whispered AmIHurtingYou

but I knew what you needed and so

I lied for you

(everything of mine was all for you

and in some ways you never gave it back)

A dance recital overhead

trying to be silent but full of things I didn’t say

like IFakedIt IFakedIt IFakedIt

If you listen to a body you’ll hear what it wants

but I knew what you needed and so

I sighed for you

Your house

strange windows and dark gardens

flames and Tarantino and whiskey

that basement where you’d curled against me

whispered love and sweet somedays

became a stage for your family

whoisthisgirl, shesnoone

I don’t even know you

and I don’t know why I’m here

but I knew what you needed and so

I stayed quiet for you

When I learned her name

I drove to your house long after dark

I wished it was raining,

but the sky wasn’t feeling poetic

Plastic bag in the passenger seat

holding everything I had left of you –

gifts I forgot to give you

clothes you left in my bed

Her car was in your driveway


I climbed the steps in the dark

prayed the neighbors wouldn’t see

laid the bag on your doorstep,

abandoned it like a corpse

all my memories in a moment

flashing by as I let the bag go

I stood very still and let the air curl around me

let all your touches come flooding back

every kiss and memory

every late night with painted symbols

or stairwells and flashlights

or plans for a sawdust canoe

every tempestuous encounter

and every smile from the eyes

navigating a maze or walking by the lake

standing on tiptoe to signal that I loved you

and my eyes touching yours when no one could see

code words and subtle signs and signals in the shadows

I remembered it all

I savored every one like my last meal

I watched them all,

short films of love and pain

and distrust and laughter

but I knew what you needed and so

I drove away for you

(everything of mine was all for you

and I took it back)


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