20 of the Most Inspiring Ernest Hemingway Quotes

20 of the Most Inspiring Ernest Hemingway Quotes

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Writing is often a lonely endeavor requiring self-motivation and creativity from within. Even the most committed writers require a dose of inspiration from now and then. It’s times like these the words of others are particularly helpful. Today we’ll share 20 Ernest Hemingway quotes to give that much-needed boost! 

Table of Contents

  • Ernest Hemingway Quotes to Inspire Your Writing
    • “The first draft of anything is garbage” 
    • “Show, don’t tell”
    • “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” 
    • “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
    • “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
    • “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” 
    • “I would stand and look over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.’”
    • “It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.”
    • “I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows.”
    • “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
    • “There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.”
    • “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
    • “Find what gave you emotion; what the action was that gave you excitement. Then write it down making it clear so that the reader can see it too. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.”
    • “Easy writing makes hard reading.”
    • “Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective.”
    • “People who write fiction, if they had not taken it up, might have become very successful liars.”
    • “…my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything.” 
    • “The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it.”
    • “Write the story, take out all the good lines, and see if it still works.”
    • “Live it up so you can write it down.”

Ernest Hemingway Quotes to Inspire Your Writing

Ernest Hemingway, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, left behind a powerful legacy with his writing style that still inspires writers today.

These phrases and quips capture some of the valuable lessons he picked up through his writing career. Today we’ll share our favorite Hemingway quotes. 

“The first draft of anything is garbage” 

Of course, we had to begin with this quote, it is the perfect reminder that writing is a process! The draft is supposed to be a starting point to get those creative juices flowing, rather than being our greatest work to date. Writing is all about refining and revising until true brilliance oozes out of the page. 

“Show, don’t tell”

This highlights the visual and writing style Hemingway preferred and the importance he places on utilizing imagery and fine details to tell stories, as opposed to directly stating emotions. 

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” 

Stepping away from the writing side of things, I think we can all agree with Hemingway here! The emotional attachment one can have towards a book reflects the safety we feel with it and the worlds it can open us up to. 

writer-should-create-living-people-people-not-characters-a-character-is-a-caricature”>“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

This Hemingway quote emphasizes his desire for stories to be as real as possible to fully immerse the reader into what is happening. 

think-you-were-born-that-way”>“It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

Every skill requires time and practice, and there’s no shame in that!

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” 

Many writers experience writer’s block and sometimes we struggle with getting unstuck from it. According to this Hemingway quote, the solve is to write the truest sentence you know—whether it’s something you knew or something you had once heard someone say. 

and-look-over-the-roofs-of-paris-andthink-do-not-worry-you-have-always-written-before-and-you-will-write-now”>“I would stand and look over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.’”

In moments of self-doubt or worry, this Hemingway quote gives us the promise that things will get better. It also offers resolve to not give up when things feel tough!

and-the-simpler-the-better-but-do-not-start-to-think-so-damned-simply-know-how-complicated-it-is-and-then-state-it-simply”>“It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.”

As writers, it’s important for us to understand complicated concepts ourselves and then find a way to get our readers to understand them, too!

“I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows.”

This Hemingway quote emphasizes the significance of depth in our writing and how we should always know the layers to the words we put out.

and-clear-about-what-hurts”>“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

think about the personal experiences that have brought out strong emotional responses in you and how you can implement these feelings into your writing to connect with your readers.

writer-has-participated-in-them-his-obligation-is-to-write-truly-rather-than-assume-the-presumption-of-altering-them-with-invention”>“There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.”

This Hemingway quote is from Preface to The Great Crusade by Gustav Regler.

writer-is-this-i-think-try-to-learn-to-breathe-deeply-really-to-taste-food-when-you-eat-and-when-you-sleep-really-to-sleep-try-as-much-as-possible-to-be-wholly-alive-with-all-your-might-and-when-you-laugh-laugh-like-hell-and-when-you-get-angry-get-good-and-angry-try-to-be-alive-you-will-be-dead-soon-enough”>“The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

Here, Hemingway is bridging the gap between mindfulness and the art of writing which is a powerful tool for every writer to know. Often we don’t think about how writing impacts other parts of our life (mainly our sleep at times!) so this Hemingway quote teaches us the beauty of doing things that make us feel alive.

and-the-baroque-is-over”>“Find what gave you emotion; what the action was that gave you excitement. Then write it down making it clear so that the reader can see it too. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.”

This comes from Hemingway’s book Death in the Afternoon.

“Easy writing makes hard reading.”

The antimetabole phrase is also compelling: “Hard writing makes easy writing,” from William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well.

“Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective.”

Some travel writing advice.

“People who write fiction, if they had not taken it up, might have become very successful liars.”

Fiction writers do have the best imaginations!

and-at-the-same-time-i-would-be-listening-to-other-people-and-noticing-everything”>“…my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything.” 

Here’s the full quote from Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition.

“It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything.”

and-i-was-having-a-hard-time-keeping-up-with-it”>“The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it.”

A familiar feeling if you’ve ever written a novel!

and-see-if-it-still-works”>“Write the story, take out all the good lines, and see if it still works.”

The ultimate test of powerful storytelling.

“Live it up so you can write it down.”

This is the perfect Hemingway quote to end on, in our humble opinion.

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