3 Things About Writing From Ernest Hemingway
Don’t Worry. Go For One True Sentence. Cut The Extra Stuff.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway isn’t a book on writing, but experiences around the craft of writing. Most of the book is filled with anecdotes from his time in Paris where he met up with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It gives you a small glimpse into what Hemingway was doing as a young writer in the 1920s.
There are a few nuggets of writing insight, mostly early on. I just finished the book and here’s what I picked up.
1. As long as you’re writing something, don’t worry.
“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. 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…’ — Ernest Hemingway
2. Go for one true sentence.
“‘…All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.” — Ernest Hemingway
3. Cut the extra stuff.
“If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.” — Ernest Hemingway
What’s the best sentence you’ve ever written?
It’s impossible to know, right? Some are better than others. And they have to build on one another.
But often, they’re too elaborate. Or too “writerly.” That’s the stuff we have to cut away. The stuff to throw out.
I love number 1. As long as we’re writing, we’ll have something.