Just Sit Down and Write – Advice on Motivation from Ernest Hemingway

Author’s gravatar Kiefer | | Writing Tips | 8

Ernest Hemingway was a writer’s writer – even today, he is still widely admired for his thoughts on the art and science of writing. His novels The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls are all considered classics of American literature.

Unlike many other novelists, Hemingway didn’t operate on inspiration alone; instead, he meticulously followed a set of strict rules and habits. In this post, we’ll explore how his advice can help you stay motived while writing content for your blog posts and email newsletters.

Just Write One Sentence

Like most writers, Hemingway faced writer’s block. His solution? Worry about one thing and one thing only: write a single “true sentence.” Don’t aim to create elaborate, complex writing – just focus on that one sentence.

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there…If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”

That’s all you have to do – write one sentence. Pretty easy, right?

Stop While You’re Ahead

Hemingway was a master of tricking himself into being productive. One of his counter-intuitive tricks was to stop writing before he felt finished.

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

As we talked about in another post on John Steinbeck, being consistent is incredibly important. By deliberately stopping while you are ahead, you’ll find it much easier to resume writing tomorrow.

You’ve Written Before and You Will Write Again

The single most difficult thing about writing is getting started. When you’re struggling to write that first sentence for a new blog post, it’s very easy to fall into a spiral of despair. Don’t. Just remember one thing: you’ve done this before and you will do it again.

“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”

Don’t Think About Writing When You Aren’t Writing

Hemingway lived a very full life (read his biography on Wikipedia.) Outside of being a writer, he was an avid skier, hunter, and journalist. To him, these other activities weren’t simply distractions – they were critical to his success as a writer.

“It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again.”

When you’re writing content for your website or newsletter, aim to focus on it completely. After you’re finished, let it go. Don’t dwell on it. Work on other parts of your website (or simply don’t work at all.)

When you return to writing, you’ll be refreshed, inspired, and anxious to get started.

Feeling motivated? I hope so – it’s time to write!


    Author’s gravatar

    Oh to be a writer like Hemingway. Thanks for the inspiration and tips.

    Perhaps it will be good to bring some real creativity into writing my blog posts.

    Author’s gravatar

    I enjoy writing, especially devotionals for men. I have written a 128 page devotional but do not have the courage to invest the $3K to self-publish with a publisher. On-Line publishing is something I’m not sure if I want to do.

    Anyway, Hemingway’s insights into writing are excellent, as they should be. He was an amazing writer and his works will continue to be read for centuries to come. I am especially encouraged by “..you’ve done this before and you will do it again.” That’s having confidence in your past accomplishments so you may build future accomplishments. I can stand on what I have done so I can build again!

    Author’s gravatar

    Good thoughts Charles. Personally, I’d recommend jumping into online publishing. It may lack the “officialness” of traditional publishing, but it’s much more lucrative.

    Author’s gravatar

    Thanks Haroun! Good luck with the writing!

    Author’s gravatar

    An excellent post drawing lessons from a master….I will definitely be taking on board some of these messages…thanks for sharing.

    Author’s gravatar

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the kudos! Hemingway was definitely a master. His to-the-point style is especially relevant for today, as well.

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    I have always avoided reading and following fiction writers since I finished with the works of Louis L’Amour many years ago. I prefer the style of nonfiction along with writing for newspapers and technical publications. Writing opinion and editorial pieces is one of my favorites.

    Author’s gravatar

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    I will work on this strategy now. I think all the above point are worth trying.

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