To Be or Not to Be a Tightass About Your Writing

Write drunk, edit sober.  –Ernest Hemingway

Cool, huh? Except that Hemingway didn’t say that.
Oh, internet. You invent so many great attributions.

Don't be a tightass writer

Your writing is important but let’s not panic.

Actually, that thought most likely came from novelist Peter De Vries, who wrote a character in the 1960’s based on rather drunkish poet Dylan Thomas. This character says, “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk.”

Taking this sort of wisdom into account (and we all imagine Hemingway would have liked it well enough to have said it himself), perhaps the answer to this post title would be, yes and no–be a tightass, but not all time.

Maybe there’s a better way, if you’re really smart, like Peter De Vries and his main character in Reuben, Reuben appear to be. See, the write drunk/edit sober quote goes on to say “…you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

Errr, yeah. If you can do that, then good on ya’. But my intention is to get us from pen to Zen, not booze to confuse. So, for my translation…

First, relax. Then get busy.

Be a secret tightass, but in a good way.

  • Yes, make sure you do your absolute best, under your realistic circumstances
  • Get some help when you’re really unsure, or know it will make a big difference
  • Revise, take out anything that’s not making it better, then stop. Don’t overdo
  • Do not allow any typos or grammatical errors if you can help it

And, if I’m going to be honest, in business writing or marketing materials, you can always help it, right? (There’s an appropriate ass-tightener for you.)

On the other hand, mistakes and imperfections are likely to slip through the cracks. Even the greats mess up. So fix ’em, learn, and get back to business.

Because you can’t always chase everyone else’s definition of “right,” “perfect” or “successful.” There are simply too many of those.

I’m finding success in the age of information is becoming more about avoiding information overload, and forgetting the thousands of contrasting extra things I’ve been “taught.”

It’s okay to stop listening to a field of voices confusing you with what you “should” do because that’s what “they” say. Who, they?

There are many experts, but not all experts agree.

This is true in all fields, even science and medicine. This is why I encourage new writers and non-writers to go for a peaceful process. And not to panic when things don’t seem to be going easily.

As such, my personal feeling is that one shouldn’t drink for either half of any project.

Instead, take breaks over time and alternate your ass tightening and loosening to achieve more balance. Sort of like doing butt crunches.

Heh. I said butt.

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