The Hemingway Contradiction

Here’s a quote on writing often attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

He likely never said that, and if he had, it would have been in contradiction with his approach to the craft.

Hemingway went to great lengths to refine his work. He wrote draft after draft after draft.

Take A Farewell to Arms. By his own account, Hemingway rewrote the first part more than fifty times. As for the ending, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library holds forty-seven different versions of it. He treated the book as a mosaic and kept making different tiles for it, until he found the one that fit just right.

Most things don’t come out right the first time. If you start with that expectation, you’re in for a world of disappointment.

Lower the bar for starting, and iterate your way to something you’re proud of. Do like Hemingway did, not like he (supposedly) said.


Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash.

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