Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

Blogging can be scary. Some days, it feels like you’ve been pushed on stage and asked to do stand-up. The guy who was on before you totally killed it. The crowd was laughing in the aisles and people were repeating his catch phrase. Now you’re up there, peering through the glare of the floor lights, trying to catch a glimpse of the audience, sweating under the deep and awkward silence of a crowd waiting to see what you’re going to do.

Yeah. Sometimes, blogging is like that.

So, you ask yourself, how do people get brave enough to put themselves and their brands out there in authentic, vulnerable, stick-their-necks-out ways? How do they find the nerve to say the thing that needs to be said? What gives them the self-assurance they need to blog in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd so they can capture attention and make people give a damn?

The answer: courage.

As the saying goes – courage isn’t a lack of fear. It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. True courage does not come easily. You have to dig down deep and find the strength to face the dragons that stand in your way. You have to take a breath, square your shoulders, and push yourself to do the thing that scares you.

But, there is another way. A shortcut called “liquid courage.” You know what I’m talking about – the inhibition-lowering, boldness-bolstering, let-me-at-‘em kind of courage. The sure-I’ll-karaoke kind of courage. The lemme-tell-you-what-I-think kind of courage.

If you haven’t gotten to the point in your blogging evolution where you can tap into true courage, if you’re still teetering on the edge of writing posts that make you cringe a little when you click the “publish” button, you might want to try writing like you’re a little tipsy.

Write drunk; edit sober.

Most often attributed to Hemingway, this little gem of writing advice is perfect for bloggers. Like good fiction, a good blog needs to reach out and grab the reader. It needs to say something worth saying, take some kind of stand. But too often we settle for the ho-hum and so-so. We play it safe.

This is called “going through the motions,” and it’s not going to help you attract attention or build an audience. It’s going to bore people. It’s hard to push beyond the easy, run-of-the-mill blog fodder to try something new or even controversial. I get it. But, if you don’t start taking steps in that direction, if you don’t start giving people something worth reading, why even bother blogging?

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get hammered; but what if we applied the attributes of intoxication to our blogger’s mindset?

Lowered Inhibitions

You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies and probably in real life, too. The shy guy finally asks the pretty girl out. The shy girl finally gets up and sings her heart out to a bar full of dumbstruck friends. The downtrodden desk jockey finally stands up and tells his boss what he really thinks.

Turning down the volume of your internal censor can be a good thing for your blogging. If your primary worries are about being politically correct and pleasing everyone, you’ll end up watering everything down and diluting your message until it’s not worth hearing. Loosen up a little. Try to be less self-conscious. Roll with your “crazy” ideas.

Brilliant Random Associations and Wild, Unruly Bursts of Creative Insight

Speaking of crazy ideas, get some of those.

Make your brainstorming sessions a free-for-all, a no-bad-ideas zone.  Write down every wacky idea you have and cultivate a mindset of curiosity and creativity.

Sometimes it takes a little inebriation to see more clearly. How many winning ideas have been hatched during happy hour when we finally get a different perspective on the day? With our internal filters shut down, the ideas can suddenly flow freely – colliding into each other and creating new, hybrid ideas. Happy hour can be very fertile ground for innovation.

Swagger

“Lemme at ‘im!”

Eyes slightly glazed, but with a fire burning in them, you’re ready to take on Goliath … bare fisted … with one hand tied behind your back. You know you can handle him. No problem. No problem at all.

Blogging requires a little chutzpah. You have to believe that you’ve got what it takes. You have to believe you’ve got something worth saying. If anyone says, “Who do you think you are?”, you have to be ready to tell him exactly who you are.

Honesty

A cocktail, mixed correctly, is as good as the best high-test truth serum.

When you’ve had a few drinks pretenses drop, charades dissolve, and facades crumble. Your authentic self, who has been waiting patiently behind the lines of sobriety and propriety, rolls her head and cracks her knuckles like a boxer preparing to enter the ring. It’s finally game time – her turn to show her stuff.

“You know what I’ve always wanted to tell you?” … and then it all starts to come out – all the really juicy bits, all the stuff that keeps the listener hanging on every word. You don’t need a fancy vocabulary, you just need to tell it like it is – straight up, no filter.

Affection

“I love you guys.”

What is it about spirits that makes it so easy for us to express our affections? Defenses come down and the whole world seems like one big hug fest. How did we not see the awesomeoness of these people before?

Feel the love. Go with it. You’re trying to connect with your readers on a very real level. Why hold back? If you feel moved to do it, tell them you love them. They are the reason you’re here. They are the reason you do what you do. Go ahead – lay one on ‘em. They’ll love it.

The morning after

Hemingway’s approach is only effective if you work both sides of the equation. I think we’ve covered the “write drunk” part, but what about editing sober?

The key is breathing room. Premature publishing is akin to drunk dialing (or texting). The results can be disastrous and embarrassing. Brainstorm and write to your intoxicated heart’s content, but don’t hit “publish” until you’ve come down off your creative party train and can look at things with a sober and impartial eye.

Believe me, you don’t want to wake up with a tattoo you don’t remember getting.

From liquid courage to the real thing

Eventually, you’ll find that you don’t need a shot of faux fearlessness to blog like you really mean it. Over time, practicing blogging like you’re tipsy (even though you aren’t … really), will give you all the true courage you need to get out there and speak your mind in a unique and engaging way. You’ll feel at ease, be open to new and creative ideas, find your groove, embrace your truth, and surrender to your affections.

And that’s when the magic will happen. You won’t worry about feeling trapped up on a stage you didn’t want to be on in the first place. You will have found your voice, your audience, and your stride. You’ll be working that spotlight like a pro and having a great time doing it.

 


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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/orintroduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This original version of this post appeared on suddenlymarketing.com.
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Image credit: WordsIGiveBy on etsy

 

31 thoughts on “Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

  1. Great ideas. Too often, we are bound by insecurity in our writing, but it’s really the only platform many of us have.

    • “… bound by insecurity …”
      How perfectly put.

      And, yes, writing is often the only platform we have; but I feel so lucky to live at a time when we have access to digital tools that let us expand on that platform in almost endless ways. It really is amazing.

  2. What I find scary about blogging is: we are our own worst critics. It is hard to compete and outdo yourself as well.We’re only good as our last popular posts and how we can keep it up and continue reinventing ourselves.

    • I feel that, too. All writers (not just bloggers) struggle with the fear of being only as good as their last “win,” whether that last win was a novel, a comic, a poetry collection, or an article in a glossy magazine. The flip side of that is that because we always feel we have to do better in order to keep up with ourselves, we’re always learning, always trying new things, always pushing just a little bit more outside our comfort zone. It’s hard – no doubt about that – but it’s also, IMHO, one of the only ways to stay truly alive.

  3. Next time I feel stuck and uninspired, I’ll get out that bottle of wine…just kidding! To do any kind of writing, you have to be brave. I think we’re all familiar with another Hemingway quote: write hard and clear about what hurts. Easier said than done, but worth striving for. Thanks for the great ideas here.

    • I love that Hemingway quote, even though it’s a little intimidating.
      As for the advice to “write drunk,” I think the actual alcohol is optional. It’s more about putting yourself in that frame of mind – that sort of devil-may-care attitude that can do wonders to free up your muse.

      Not that I’m against a glass of wine …
      🙂

      Thanks for being here, Tina!

  4. Haha. Loved this one particularly, “Believe me, you don’t want to wake up with a tattoo you don’t remember getting.”

    Precisely why I have made it a point not to write my first draft on-screen. I do it the orthodox way now – pen and paper. Once done, I type it – and leave it. Then late at night, I crawl back to it when there is pin drop silence, and with all that sweat and palpitation – I re-open that draft and get the editing done. That at least makes me feel better clicking the publish button.

    I think I am going to be better someday, eventually.

    • If you keep writing, Bilal, I have no doubt you’ll get better. That’s how it works! 😉

      Thanks for sharing your process. I like how you’ve separated drafting from editing by using different tools. That seems very smart. I may have to give that a try.

      • Thank you, Jaime, I hope so too, I intend to keep trying. 🙂

        Glad to know you find my process interesting. I think it helps me think and write clearly, and see my mistakes more clearly afterwards when I type and review the draft. It is particularly useful if one tends to easily get distracted by ‘other’ things, particularly social media notifications, on gadgets.

  5. If I could write drunk and that would make me uninhibited, I’d have a lot more written! Wait, that came out wrong… It just doesn’t work for me, unfortunately. My ideas go out the window after the first half-glass, and I end up with blah blah blah. Kind of like that “brilliant” idea from your dream you wake up and write down in the middle of the night that is pure gibberish in the light of day.

    • Ahhh, yes. Perfect analogy re: the brilliant idea that is not quite so brilliant in the morning. Been there and done that. 😉

      Best case scenario is probably being able to adopt a “drunk” mindset without the use of any alcohol. Second best scenario would probably be finding that perfect balance between sober and slightly inebriated … and being able to maintain it while you write. Tricky business, that.

      Either way, anything we can do to be less inhibited while crafting our first drafts is a good thing.

  6. What a trip I never realized that blogging could be so scary or worrisome to people. I took this plunge for a couple of reasons but one of them being workshops. I couldn’t find a writer’s workshop around here and I know there’s plenty. I wanted to be able to write and then see if it related to people, made them laugh made them sigh, made a spark. So I started blogging, but the funny thing was I didn’t post my fiction, I posted just stories and musings about my life. For some reason posting real-life stories seemed less “scary” than posting fiction, which may sound weird. The blogging has made my writing better, helped me strengthen my voice, which has transferred over into my fiction and given me courage to finish writing my book and letting a few people reading it before sending it out into the world. Courage. Definitely.

    • You bring up some interesting points about why writers blog and why they choose to blog one thing over another – fiction instead of personal essays, or vice versa. Lots to think about there. One thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that blogging – by forcing us to write consistently – does help strengthen the writer’s voice and also improve the writing craft. For that reason alone, I believe it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  7. Jamie, “I love you, Girl!” …hick.
    Okay, so I’d say that stone cold sober too. Your blogs are always so inspirational and on target. I want to be just like you when I grow up. I’m definitely sharing this – great ideas all bloggers should hang next to their computer screens. 🙂

    • Awww … thanks, Debbie. You just made my day.

      I’m happy to share these ideas as I come across them, and this one is particularly fun. I think it’s definitely a hang-next-to-your-computer-screen candidate … except maybe not at work. That might not go over so well with the boss. 😉

  8. Pingback: Bad Habits or something else? | trena's adventures

    • Hi, Trena. Glad you enjoyed this post. Hope your furry friends continue to entertain you, even when they are slowing up your writing. And I hope the weather turns again, so you and your daughter can get back outside. That, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to get the creative juices flowing.

      Thanks for being here!

    • Hello, Arjun!
      Happily, I don’t think liquid courage is mandatory. I think we simply need, as writers, to be able to get into the “brave” (maybe “stupid-brave”) mindset often associated with intoxication. We need to find a way to get out from under our own insecurities so we can, as you pointed out, “write our hearts out.”

      Thanks for the share & for being here. 🙂

    • Great additions, Kandace. I especially like the idea of writing like you’re on a long road trip. I always write differently when I’m away from home or traveling. It’s not something I do very often, but I have always felt that being in an unfamiliar place brings out a different writing voice. Interesting.

      Thanks for chiming in. 🙂

  9. Pingback: “Write Drunk. Edit Sober.” from Live to Write – Write to Live | Slattery's Art of Horror Weblog

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