“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organisations 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.
I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”
This is part of the speech Ernest Hemmingway wrote in acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He was unable to deliver it himself because he was still recovering from two nearly fatal plane crashes. Loneliness and depression drove him to suicide in 1961, although this may have been caused more by his genetic inheritance of hemochromatosis than mental weakness.
Hemmingway is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His prose appears simple, but the short sentences build a complex pattern of multiple strands pulling you through the story.
Here are ten quotes from Hemmingway on the process and craft of writing. Advice this good should always be heeded…
Top 10 Tips from Hemmingway
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
“Never confuse movement with action.”
“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”
“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
“Do you suffer when you write? I don’t at all. Suffer like a bastard when you don’t write, or just before, and feel empty and fucked out afterwards. But never feel as good as while writing.”
“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.”
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” – Death in the Afternoon