“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Our boy Ernie was a guy who know about struggling and getting stuck when it comes to writing. He also managed to snare both a Pulitzer Prize (and a Nobel, too), so he knew how to get through the rough times. When he did get stuck or felt he wasn’t being authentic enough in what he was writing, he used a simple approach to extricate himself: “If I start 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.”
Great advice! In general, Ernie was sympathetic to other writers who wanted to hone their craft — and over the years, in bits and pieces, he passed on generous doses of wisdom. These gems have been gathered together in a helpful, easy-to-digest book called Ernest Hemingway on Writing.
Probably one of his most-quoted tips focuses on how to much to write: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
He also believed strongly that writers write too much and don’t read enough great literature. His remedy? Reading the masters like Tolstoy, Flaubert, Mann, Joyce, Fielding, Mark Twain, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, and James.
I like the idea of stopping while things are going well. I’m facing a big week of revisions on my YA novel and I’m going to try this technique. Care to join me?