An eNewsletter Dedicated to Helping Businesspeople Write Smarter and Faster in Plain Language
Let Hemingway Teach You How to Write (Part 1 of 2)
Though Ernest Hemingway was a novelist, his advice on writing is very useful for businesspeople, whether you’re writing a book on management strategies or just trying to improve your daily business correspondence. The following article, “Ernest Hemingway’s Best Tips on Writing,” includes nine tips, four of which are included in this issue of Writing Tips. The remaining five will appear in the October issue. Here is the article:
Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. His most popular work, The Old Man and the Sea, earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and in 1954 Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his powerful, style-forming mastery of the art of narration.”
While Hemingway never codified his writing strategies into a single volume like Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, or other writers have, he did document his approach to writing in his letters to agents, publishers, other writers, and friends, and through commissioned articles on the subject.
Ernest Hemingway on Writing is a compilation of his reflections on his writing process, and provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s greatest authors. Here are just a few of the inspiring nuggets of advice Hemingway shares in this book.
1. What writing is and does.
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 sorry, the people and the places and how the weather was. Nobody really knows or understands and nobody has ever said the secret. The secret is that it is poetry written into prose and it is the hardest of all things to do…
2. The qualities of a writer.
All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time… Real seriousness in regard to writing is one of the two absolute necessities. The other, unfortunately, is talent.
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it. A writer without a sense of justice and of injustice would be better off editing the yearbook of a school for exceptional children than writing novels.
A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge.
3. The pain and pleasure of writing.
I believe that basically you write for two people; yourself to try to make it absolutely perfect; or if not that then wonderful. Then you write for who you love whether she can read or write or not and whether she is alive or dead.
Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done— so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.
I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. But it is a hell of a disease to be born with. I like to do it. Which is even worse. That makes it from a disease into a vice. Then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. An obsession is terrible. Hope you haven’t gotten any. That’s the only one I’ve got left.
4. What to write about.
You see I’m trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across – not to just depict life—or criticize it—but to actually make it alive. So that when you have read something by me you actually experience the thing. You can’t do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful. Because if it is all beautiful you can’t believe in it.
Write about what you know and write truly and tell them all where they can place it. … Books should be about the people you know, that you love and hate, not about the people you study about. … Whatever success I have had has been through writing what I know about.
- Americans worked 12-hour days seven days a week during the 19th century.
- The decision to make Labor Day the first Monday of September was approved by Congress on June 28, 1894.
- The first celebrated U.S. Labor Day was on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, planned by the Central Labor Union.
- The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans will eat 7 billion hot dogs.
- The expression “no white after Labor Day” comes from when the upper class would return from their summer vacations and stow away their lightweight, white summer clothes as they returned back to school and work.
- Which state was the first one to celebrate Labor Day: Delaware, Virginia, Oregon, Kansas?
(Fun Facts Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Word of the Month
ombudsman | AHM-bədz-mun | noun
• a person who investigates, reports on, and helps settle complaints
“The CEO appointed Keith as the company’s ombudsman to settle complaints about how the coffee fund money was being spent.”
Wacky & Wise Websites
Click here to see the list of 50 movies that Roger Ebert hated.
Click here to read about the best-selling 19th century female novelists you never heard of.
American Express, Amgen, Cisco Systems, Department of the Navy, Fluor Corporation, General Electric, Motorola, The New York Public Library, Procter & Gamble, SEAL Team Six, State of Utah, Supreme Court of Virginia, United Way, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Choose the words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
“True to her altruistic beliefs, Natalie ___ the ___ attitude of her colleague that a client represented nothing more than a source of income and an opportunity for advancing one’s professional reputation.”
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
The nation’s favorite lunchtime snack, a sandwich, gets its name from the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu. The story goes that 250 years ago, the 18th-century aristocrat requested that his valet bring him beef served between two slices of bread. He was fond of eating this meal while playing card games, as his hands wouldn’t get greasy from the meat and thus spoil the cards. Observing him, Montagu’s friends began asking for “the same as Sandwich”, and so the sandwich was born.
Answer: Natalie, an altruistic person, would “lament” the attitude of a greedy and ambitious colleague whom she would describe as “mercenary.”
Fun Facts Answer
In 1887, Oregon became the first state to celebrate Labor Day as a legal holiday.