10 Writing Tips From Ernest Hemingway, God Bless Him

Ernest Hemingway Photo

Want some advice from one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, a man who almost got blown to bits during WWI, hunted lions for sport, survived two consecutive plane crashes, had four wives, and blew out his brains?


“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.”


“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”


“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway photo
“I certainly do not think of writing as a type of self-destruction, though journalism, after a point has been reached, can be a daily self-destruction for a serious creative writer.”


As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.


Anything you can omit that you know you still have in the writing and its quality will show. When a writer omits things he does not know, they show like holes in his writing.


A writer can be compared to a well. There are as many kinds of wells as there are writers. The important thing is to have good water in the well, and it is better to take a regular amount out than to pump the well dry and wait for it to refill.


The best writing is certainly when you are in love.

Ernest Hemingway photo with gun
“My aim was to put down on paper what I saw and felt in the best and simplest way.”


The first draft of anything is shit.


A writer, if he is any good, does not describe. He invents or makes out of knowledge personal and impersonal and sometimes he seems to have unexplained knowledge which could come from forgotten racial or family experience… If you describe someone, it is flat, as a photograph is, and from my standpoint a failure. If you make him up from what you know, there should be all the dimensions.


The first and final thing you have to do in this world is to last it and not be smashed by it.

Ernest Hemingway boxing photo
“Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.”


(Tips taken from famous quotes & Paris Review Interview.)

Which tip is your favorite?


34 thoughts on “10 Writing Tips From Ernest Hemingway, God Bless Him

  1. I like the one on the wells. Some people feel they are really deep and yet they are shallow. Some wells are poisoned by the water and seepage. Some smell bad. Some well have good water but getting it is a bitch.

  2. Number 2 – when people talk listen, completely. Most people never listen. Very true. From listening, comes inspiration to write. Even in real life, half the problems will be solved if people listen without butting in. Half the arguments can be avoided.

  3. They’re all really great tips but if I had to choose just one it would be: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

  4. How am I supposed to pick just one? The one true sentence thing is good advice. A lot of writing seems like a building up to that one crystallizing truth. The trick is not stumbling over it when you get there. Thanks for this, and thank you, Mr. Hemingway.

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