Ernest Hemingway? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Did Ernest Hemingway drink heavily while he was writing? How many hours did he spend working each day? Can you find an interview containing quotations that illuminate his drinking and writing habits?
Quote Investigator: Shortly before Hemingway died in 1961, he participated in an interview conducted by Edward Stafford and his wife. The result appeared in the “Writer’s Digest” in 1964. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1
My wife needled him. “Is it true,” she asked, “that you take a pitcher of martinis up into the tower every morning when you go up to write?”
“Jeezus Christ!” Papa was incredulous. “Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes—and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides,” he added, “who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time, anyway?”
Thus, Hemingway denied that alcohol was his muse. A separate QI article explored a germane saying which has often been attributed to Hemingway: “Write drunk, edit sober”. QI found no substantive support for ascribing this remark to the famous author.
During the interview Hemingway was also asked about how long he worked each day:
The important thing is to work every day. I work from about seven until about noon. Then I go fishing or swimming, or whatever I want. The best way is always to stop when you are going good. If you do that you’ll never be stuck.
In conclusion, Hemingway’s words provide evidence that he did not drink while writing, and he enjoyed freedom during the afternoon.
Image Notes: Illustration of fishermen at sunset from geralt at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.
(Great thanks to Urban Legends @urbanlegendshu whose inquiry about “Write drunk, edit sober” led QI to create an entry about that quotation and also create this entry.)
- 1964 December, Writer’s Digest, An Afternoon With Hemingway by Edward Stafford, Start Page 18, Quote Page 21, Writer’s Digest, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Verified with microfilm) ↩