“There is nothing to writing” he wrote. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
If that advice isn’t giving you the breakthrough you’re looking for, here are 27 other gems from Hemingway on writing:
#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
I think one of the reasons we like these lists is not that we are looking to absorb all the advice – which probably wouldn’t be possible, or advisable – but because we subconsciously scan it, filter it, to find the one piece of advice we need right now.
The bit of the jigsaw we were looking for. The thing that’ll help us take our writing to the next level.
I know there’s one on this list that speaks most directly, most clearly, to me.
If you had to select just one of these, which one would it be? And how do you know?
This piece was inspired by Brian Clark’s Magazine Headline Remix challenge – the Details edition.
Writing from a headline is a great way to stretch and test your writing style – perfect if, like me, you’re looking to take a leap with your writing.
The tips, suggestions, ideas and writing advice are culled from Ernest Hemingway On Writing, a selection of material from Hemingway articles, interviews, letters and books.