Ernest Hemingway on Writing
eBook - ePub

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Larry W. Phillips

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eBook - ePub

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Larry W. Phillips

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A collection of reflections on writing and the nature of the writer from one the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Throughout Hemingway's career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing—that it takes off "whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk's feathers if you show it or talk about it."Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived
This book contains Hemingway's reflections on the nature of the writer and on elements of the writer's life, including specific and helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and discipline. The Hemingway personality comes through in general wisdom, wit, humor, and insight, and in his insistence on the integrity of the writer and of the profession itself.—From the Preface by Larry W. Phillips

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The Writer’s Life

“Tell me first what are the things, the actual, concrete things that harm a writer?”

“Politics, women, drink, money, ambition. And the lack of politics, women, drink, money and ambition,” I said profoundly.
Green Hills of Africa, p. 28
He [the wolf] is hunted by everyone. Everyone is against him and he is on his own as an artist is.
to Harvey Breit, 1952
Selected Letters, p. 771
Writing and selling it stop but don’t get rich stop all authors poor first then rich stop. me no exception stop

telegram to James Gamble, 1921
Selected Letters, p. 45
The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty bothers
. It was all part of the fight against poverty that you never win except by not spending. Especially if you buy pictures instead of clothes. But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people that we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich.
A Moveable Feast, pp. 50–51
It is necessary to handle yourself better when you have to cut down on food so you will not get too much hunger-thinking. Hunger is good discipline and you learn from it. And as long as they do not understand it you are ahead of them. Oh sure, I thought, I’m so far ahead of them now that I can’t afford to eat regularly. It would not be bad if they caught up a little.
A Moveable Feast, p. 75
Glenway Wescott, Thornton Wilder, and Julian Green have all gotten rich in a year in which I have made less than I made as a newspaper correspondent—and I’m the only one with wives and children to support. Something’s going to have to be done. I don’t want the present royalties until they are due. But I would like to make a chunk of money at one time so I could invest it. This bull market in beautiful letters isn’t going to last forever and I do not want to always be one who is supposed to have made large sums and hasn’t and doesn’t.
to Maxwell Perkins, 1928
Selected Letters, p. 278
My own experience with the literary life has not as yet included receiving royalties—but I hope by keeping down advances to some day have this take place.
to Maxwell Perkins, 1927
Selected Letters, p. 257

I don’t think there is any question about artistic integrities. It has always been much more exciting to write than to be paid for it and if I can keep on writing we may eventually all make some money.
to Maxwell Perkins, 1926
Selected Letters, p. 216
I do not wish to squawk about being hit financially any more than I would squawk about being hit physically. I need money, badly, but not badly enough to do one dishonorable, shady, borderline, or “fast” thing to get it. I hope this is quite clear.
to Alfred Rice, 1948
Selected Letters, p. 655
I’ve always thought that only one thing mattered, your own career, and like a general in battle I would sacrifice anything to my work and I would not let my self be fond of anything I could not lose. But now I have learned that you have no success while you are alive; the only success that counts while you live is making money and I refused that. So I am going to work for success after I am dead and I am going to be very careful of the troops [family] and have no casualties that I can help and I am going to take pleasure in the things that I have while I have them.
to Mrs. Paul Pfeiffer, 1936
Selected Letters, p. 436
About posterity: I only think about writing truly. Posterity can take care of herself

to Arthur Mizener, 1950
Selected Letters, p. 698
You see we make our writers into something very strange.”
“I do not understand.”
“We destroy them in many ways. First, economically. They make money. It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually. Then our writers when they have made some money increase their standard of living and they are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishments, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they write when there is nothing to say or no water in the well. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop.”
Green Hills of Africa, p. 23
I get letters from Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan etc. asking me for stories, articles, and serials, but am publishing nothing for six months or a year
because I know that now is a very crucial time and that it is much more important for me to write in...