Hemingway’s Formula to Mastery of Writing

hemingway-for-whom-the-bell-tollsI’m a big Ernest Hemingway fan. I admire the man, his writing and his flaws. Though not perfect, he wrote perfectly. He created art in a way that was different to how other writers did and he made it look easy. But therein lies his genius. It took him years of following other masters and copying their work to get the feel, the nuances, the style, to understand how they arranged their words and only after hours and hours of repetition, once he understood them, did he understand how to make the words his own.

For a long time I burdened under the impression that successful writers take long to write only because they are working out plot details and doing research, and because they are so talented, words just magically stream to them from some mythical place specially reserved for writers of high calibre. I have been so busy living life and dealing with other things that I failed to realize  how much time and effort goes into writing a reasonably readable book. Never mind a bestseller.

Don’t misunderstand. I never once thought it easy to write a novel or even a short story. In fact, for me it was always a given that I would have to work harder and longer just to produce something remotely entertaining. Yes, I know, I’ve allowed this self-doubt in my writing to develop over many old-man-and-the-sea-reviewyears. It grows like rot and if you don’t take control early enough you’ll have a hard time reigning it in. It’s ironic, really. I’ve been paying attention to all the details of my life, painstakingly so, but not to that part of me that always wanted to write. A precious dream that never went away but always suffered neglect.

But I’m writing now. I’m not neglecting that part of me any longer. The seed germinated somewhere in my recent past and became a seedling that grew until it couldn’t be ignored any longer. I paid it attention and a whole new world burst open to embrace me, and I loved it and rejoiced in it, and jumped and floated and disappeared into a beautiful void. And I’m not coming out. Self-doubt be damned.

…you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of…

You’ve got to hand it to Hemingway. He gave great advice.

I have a link here to a very long interview with Hemingway, if you’re interested. I mean why not? You discover unintended writing advice from reading interviews.

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 21, Ernest Hemingway.



2 thoughts on “Hemingway’s Formula to Mastery of Writing

  1. Well, as Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” 🙂

    I think this is because writers are aware of how poverful words can really be, whereas other people just use words in a functional way. I wouldn’t say writing has become mor edifficult fo rme over the years, but I will say I’m demanding more and more from my writing skills. I mean, the mor eyou write, the more you learn the possibilities, the best you want to write.

    So don’t doubt. Just look ahead and go where your eyes are watching!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true. You have this idea in your head, the way in which you want to tell the story and it is very important that the imagery you create on paper or on the screen conforms to that idea. There lies the difficulty.

    Thanks for your lovely comment.


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