Ernest Hemingway on his craft of writing

  • All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you’ve read one of them you will find that all that happened, happened to you and then it belongs to you forever: the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, wine, beds, people and the weather. If you can give that to readers, then you’re a writer.
  • Any man’s life, told truly, is a novel. There is no rule on how it is to write.
  • There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.
  • A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it (you lose it if you talk about it).
  • All you have to do is write one true sentence.
  • My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
  • All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.
  • Writing, at its best, is a lonely life…  for he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
  • You invent fiction, but what you invent it out of is what counts. True fiction must come from everything you’ve ever known, ever seen, ever felt, ever learned.
  • You put down the words in hot blood, like an argument, and correct them when your temper has cooled.
  • All our words from loose using have lost their edge.
  • When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. If a writer can make people live there may be no great characters in his book, but it is possible that his book will remain as a whole; as an entity; as a novel.
  • If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.
  • I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing what you really felt, rather that what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things which produced the emotion that you experienced..
  • There are only two absolutes I know about writing: one is that if you make love while you are jamming on a novel, you are in danger of leaving the best parts of it in the bed; the other is that integrity in a writer is like virginity in a woman – once lost, it is never recovered.

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

10 Remarkable Quotes of Ernest Hemingway

  • There’s no one thing that is true. They’re all true.
  • What is moral is what you feel good after.
  • Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
  • Man is not made for defeat.
  • Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out. If there’s nothing or very little, the shock can kill a man.
  • Courage is grace under pressure.
  • Never mistake motion for action.
  • Eschew the monumental. Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.
  • All you have to do is write one true sentence.
  • The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector.

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Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Ernest Hemingway on effective writing

I couldn’t refer to authors’ rules on effective writing without mentioning my favourite writer and his perspective on what makes great writing. Ernest Hemingway wrote a lot about writing.

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Here’s a few rules from the Master on what it takes to write well.

  1. Use short sentences and short first paragraphs.
  2. Use vigorous English – passion, focus and intention.
  3. Be positive, not negative.
  4. Spend time to edit and rewrite. (“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”)

 

Joanna Young of the blog The Confident Writing Coach catalogued 27 gems from Hemingway on the art of writing.

Here Is Young’s list of Hemingway’s advice to writers:

1 Start with the simplest things

2 Boil it down

3 Know what to leave out

4 Write the tip of the ice-berg, leave the rest under the water

5 Watch what happens today

6 Write what you see

7 Listen completely

8 Write when there is something you know, and not before

9 Look at words as if seeing them for the first time

10 Use the most conventional punctuation you can

11 Ditch the dictionary

12 Distrust adjectives

13 Learn to write a simple declarative sentence

14 Tell a story in six words

15 Write poetry into prose

16 Read everything so you know what you need to beat

17 Don’t try to beat Shakespeare

18 Accept that writing is something you can never do as well as it can be done

19 Go fishing in summer

20 Don’t drink when you’re writing

21 Finish what you start

22 Don’t worry. You’ve written before and you will write again

23 Forget posterity. Think only of writing truly

24 Write as well as you can with no eye on the market

25 Write clearly – and people will know if you are being true

26 Just write the truest sentence that you know

27 Remember that nobody really knows or understands the secret

 

Joanna Young’s blog entry is here:

http://confidentwriting.com/2008/02/27-secrets-to-w/

 

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Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer or experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

 

 

 

 

Musings of Ernest Hemingway

Readers of By George Journal will know one of our oft-quoted authors is Ernest Hemingway. Here are some favourite quotes.

  • Courage is grace under pressure.
  • Man is not made for defeat.
  • Never mistake motion for action.
  • Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
  • Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out. If there’s nothing or very little, the shock can kill a man.
  • There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things, and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
  • What is moral is what you feel good after.
  • A big lie is more plausible than truth.
  • When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
  • In answer to the most frightening thing he ever encountered – “a blank sheet of paper.”
  • The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector.
  • A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it (you lose it if you talk about it).
  • All you have to do is write one true sentence.
  • Any man’s life, told truly, is a novel. There is no rule on how it is to write.
  • There’s no one thing that is true. They’re all true.
  • There is no friend as loyal as a book.
  • My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
  • There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.
  • All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.
  • Writing, at its best, is a lonely life… for he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
  • That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.
  • Eschew the monumental. Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.
  • Survival, with honor, that outmoded and all-important word, is as difficult as ever and as all-important to a writer. Those who do not last are always more beloved since no one has to see them in their long, dull, unrelenting, no-quarter-given-and-no-quarter-received, fights that they make to do something as they believe it should be done before they die. Those who die or quit early and easy and with every good reason are preferred because they are understandable and human. Failure and well-disguised cowardice are more human and more beloved.
  • To me heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on nine different floors.
  • All things truly wicked start from an innocence.

(ed. – This list was previously posted in By George Journal in Summer 2009.)

 

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

In October of 1954, Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although he did not attend the awards ceremony, the following remarks were read for him at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm on December 10, 1954.

 

Hemingway commented on his craft:

 

       Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

       For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

       How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

Our 10 FAV Hemingway Quotes

 

  • There is no one thing that’s true. It’s all true.
  • Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all other days that ever come depend on what you do today.
  • “But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
  • Courage is grace under pressure.
  • Every one has to do what he can do according to how it can be truly done.
  • Never confuse movement with action.
  • What is moral is what you feel good after.
  • Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out. If there’s nothing or very little, the shock can kill a man.
  • Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
  • Every man’s life ends the same way and it is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.

Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea is Ernest Hemingway’s last major work of fiction, first published in 1952. The book won a Pultizer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. On the surface, it is a tale of an aged fisherman and his struggle to land a giant marlin. At a deeper level, this classic novel studies man’s resolution, faith and endurance in the face of defeat. Here are a dozen great quotes from this timeless story:

  • Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.
  • Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?
  • He did not say that because he knew that if you said a good thing it might not happen.
  • No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable.
  • I may not be as strong as I think, but I know many tricks and I have resolution.
  • Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.
  • It’s silly not to hope. It’s a sin he thought.
  • The thousand times that he had proved it means nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.
  • “But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
  • Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.
  • Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?
  • He rested sitting on the un-stepped mast and sail and tried not to think but only to endure.

Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hemingway’s 1940 epic war story, For Whom the Bell Tolls, provides glimpses into the author’s personal perspectives of the Spanish Civil War – and his bold, stark insights into war and politics, and killing, dying and the coming to terms with one’s mortality.  It is a novel preoccupied with death and, at the same time, with the nurturing of hope in the face of the atrocities of war.

 

Here are a dozen bons mots from the book:

  • Every one has to do what he can do according to how it can be truly done.
  • For what are we born if not to aid one another?
  • I am thee and thou art me and all of one is the other.
  • Everything you have is to give. Thou art a phenomenon of philosophy and an unfortunate man.
  • You have it now and that is all your whole life is; now. There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span.
  • Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all other days that ever come depend on what you do today.
  • I think that after the war there will have to be some great penance done for the killing. If we no longer have religion after the war then I think there must be some form of civic penance organized that all may be cleansed from the killing or else we will never have a true and human basis for living. The killing is necessary, I know, but still the doing of it is very bad for a man and I think that, after all this is over and we have won the war, there must be a penance of some kind for the cleansing of us all.
  • How little we know of what there is to know. I wish that I were going to live a long time instead of going to die today because I have learned much about life in these four days; more, I think than in all other time. I’d like to be an old man to really know. I wonder if you keep on learning or if there is only a certain amount each man can understand. I thought I knew so many things that I know nothing of. I wish there was more time.
  • There isn’t any need to deny everything there’s been just because you are going to lose it. Don’t be like some damned snake with a broken back biting at itself; and your back isn’t broken either you hound. Wait until you’re hurt before you start to cry. Wait until the fight before you get angry. There’s lots of time for it in a fight. It will be some use to you in a fight.
  • Whether one has fear of it or not, one’s death is difficult to accept.
  • I hate to leave it (life) very much and I hope I have done some good in it.  I have tried to with what talent I had…. The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.
  • There is no one thing that’s true. It’s all true.