Minimalistic, straightforward, and clean-cut.
That’s how I’d describe Ernest Hemingway’s writing. His prose is not flowery nor does it employ endless metaphors or similes. You will probably love or hate him. Personally, I think he was a genius. His life was far from mundane, and his wisdom on all things life-related comes through his writing clearly.
Hemingway was an American journalist, novelist, and writer. He is well-known for being one of the most popular writers of the twentieth century. His straightforward writing was uncommon in his time, but his life was even more unusual. He got married four times, participated in the Spanish civil war, enlisted as an ambulance driver during the first world war, and survived two plane crashes, skin cancer, pneumonia, malaria, high blood pressure, a ruptured kidney, liver, and spleen, and a fractured skull. The man was unbreakable. The only thing that could break him was himself. And he did indeed sadly die by suicide in 1961.
Hemingway’s work is filled with the themes of war, violence, and death. He was also a heavy drinker: “I have drunk since I was 15 and few things have given me more pleasure.”
In 1921 Hemingway moved to Paris, the city he claimed to love the most. The city inspired him to create. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest would spend his days writing in Parisian cafes and looking at artworks by Cezanne (an artist who inspired his writing).
It was there he became acquainted with other famous writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. One thing’s for sure: this man’s life was full of adventure and he lived it to the fullest.
What I like most about Ernest’s work is his insight into the craft of writing itself. Simply put: this writer had a talent for writing about writing. The process of writing, the passion for writing, the doubts writers have when writing, writers’ block. All of it. Utter genius.
Take a look at what I mean:
1. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
2. “The first draft of anything is sh*t.”
3. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
4. “As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”
5. “Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it, don’t cheat with it.”
6. “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”
7. “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
8. “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
9. “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel, in the best and simplest way.”
10. “Write hard and clear about what hurts. Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.”
11. “In order to write about life you must first live it.”
12. “If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”
13. “Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.”
14. “It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.”
15. “I believe that basically, you write for two people; yourself to try and make it absolutely perfect, or if not that then wonderful. Then you write for who you love whether they can read or write or not and whether they are alive or dead.”
16. “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
17. “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, sh*t detector.”
18. “The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it.”
19. “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”
20. “After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.”
21. “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
22. “Do you suffer when you write? I don’t at all. Suffer like a bastard when don’t write, or just before, and feel empty and f*cked out afterward. But never feel as good as while writing.”
23. “A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”
24. “I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of sh*t. I try to put the sh*t in the wastebasket.”
25. “Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.”
26. “If he wrote it, he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them.”
Which one is your favourite?