Never underestimate simplicity

‘Go on, then,’ Pascin said. ‘And don’t fall in love with typewriting paper.’ ‘If I do, I’ll write with a pencil.’

There is something organic about a pencil, isn’t there? The smell and feel of the simple little object. Hemingway certainly thought so, often claiming to turn to writing by hand when the juices couldn’t be squeezed by the keys of a typewriter. His predisposition to pencils I am connecting with Hemingway’s pared-down aesthetic for which he is known. He held no regard for adjectives, for example, and always felt the basest expression to be the most honest: that is, coming from a primal place of the subconscious.


Know how to set aside your work

I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped.

Ernest and Mary Hemingway on safari in Kenya, Africa, 1953-1954.
Ernest and Mary Hemingway on safari in Kenya, Africa, 1953-1954.

The book is yours, you are not the book’s. Take control! Hemingway certainly made writing his life but never allowed writing to undo his life. (If anything came close, it seems to have been the races and gambling.) By not thinking extensively about the work when not actually working, new elements can be permitted entry that would otherwise never have had the opportunity to manifest.


Truly, honestly, Hem

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know’

It is a well-known fact that Hemingway was overly fond of the word true and, by extension, the degree of honesty in a work was used to judge its value. Many of the items on this list have this aim, but it is important to acknowledge it independently for the pursuit of truth should not be underestimated. Indeed, it ought to be the driving force of any piece of writing. To achieve truth is to move somebody and make them acknowledge themselves in a new way: probably the greatest gift a writer can give.


Be in love

It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything.

Ernest, Hadley, and their son Jack ("Bumby") in Schruns, Austria, 1926, just months before they separated

Everything is amplified when in love and making love frequently, talent included. It is no secret that the muses have a preference towards the enamored; words come faster, the faster the heart beats and flutters. To give yourself permission to feel love is an instant switch to greater general feeling (should I say more primal?) which only results in writing that is truer. Love also asks greatness from you for the sake of another.


Know, but don’t write everything you know

…you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.

Ernest Hemingway on safari, Kenya, 1954

This is quite possibly the most uniquely Hemingway’s piece of advice on here. It works off the supposition that an author ought to know more than she shares so that the manner in which information is recorded is confident with a sense of completeness. This technique also guarantees conciseness while remaining comprehensive. Beyond writing, it is a good skill to have, training yourself not to make all knowledge universal knowledge!


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