While few of us will ever reach the literary brilliance of Mr. Hemingway, some of his advice might provide an intriguing perspective from one of the most gifted writers in the English language. I have selected a few of his most salient observations about the art and science of writing. The book itself, which was expertly edited and organized by Mr. Larry W. Phillips, is available from Amazon.com.
One interesting fact about Mr. Hemingway might surprise us: He never went to college.
So the next time a potential client or employer says, “English or another pertinent degree required for this position,” you may desire to gently remind them that with that criterion, they could not hire Ernest Hemingway.
The Craft of Writing
“Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done.”
“There’s no rule on how it is to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
“I think you should learn about writing from everybody who has ever written that has anything to teach you.”
“You see I’m trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across, not just to depict life, or criticize it, but to actually make it alive.”
“Ordinarily I never read anything before I write in the morning to try and bite on the old nail with no help, no influence and no one giving you a wonderful example or sitting looking over your shoulder.”
“Charlie’s (Scribner’s) ridiculing of my daily word count was because he did not understand me or writing well nor could know how happy one felt to have put down properly 422 words as you wanted them to be. And days of 1200 or 2700 were something that made you happier than you could believe. Since I found that 400 to 600 well done was a pace I could hold much better was always happy with that number. But if I only had 320 I felt good.”
“Whatever success that I have had has been through writing what I know about.”
“I hold very simply, that a critic has a right to write anything he wishes about your work no matter how wrong he may be. I also hold that a critic has no right to write about your private life while you are alive.”
Quotes are courtesy of and copyrighted © 1984 by Larry W. Phillips and Mary Welsh Hemingway. First Touchstone Edition 1999 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. These quotes were made possible by the kind permission of Mr. Phillips.
Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and editor from Washington, D.C. He has published articles, book reviews, and interviews about alternative health, art history, career-related themes, historical figures, Italian and international soccer, martial arts, psychology, and sports medicine topics. His writing portfolio and contact information can be found at www.sanstefano.com.