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Ernest Hemingway Critical Essay

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Updated: Dec 28th, 2019


Ernest Miller Hemingway believed that the mind was deceptive; consequently, he depended on his senses to express himself. This perspective was always evident in his work, and that was why people thought it was pure and fresh. The uniqueness of his writing may be attributed to his detailed creative regimen.

The creative process in Hemingway’s work

Some of the notable pieces that this author has written include “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Old Man and the Sea”. The latter piece won him a Nobel Prize for Literature. Hemingway explained that when writing these two literary texts, he wanted to let readers identify the elements that he had deliberately omitted. He said that he pruned words and only wrote what was absolutely necessary.

Hemingway affirmed that when a writer omitted something out of the lack of knowledge of the thing, then he/she was unskillful. However, if a writer knew something and left it out deliberately, then the person was a genius. Hemingway asserted that it took a lot of prowess to leave out an element of a story and still create the illusion, to readers, that the thing happened.

Omission was a strong indication of one’s writing quality (Plimpton 29). Such an assertion indicates that this author carefully thought his literary pieces. He first made up what he needed to say in his mind; thereafter, he would cull irrelevant words or ideas that would reveal too much.

He wanted to make his writing three dimensional by giving readers instructions that they needed to follow in order to figure out the whole story. Therefore, this author had to exercise a considerable amount of restraint in his writing. He knew that less is more, and the best literature always causes readers to think.

Hemingway often guarded his creative process. He believed that writing a book was a lonely activity that would only be distracted if other people got in the way. This was the reason why he liked to work in his bedroom or inside a workroom set aside for this very purpose.

Ernest preferred his bedroom to the special workroom, which happened to be in a special tower on a corner in his house, because his bedroom probably inspired him to come up with new ideas. In this regard, one can learn that creativity sometimes requires isolation (Muller 33).

Since his bedroom was his favorite place to work, it is only fitting to find out the qualities in his bedroom that caused his creative juices to flow. Hemingway had a lot of sentimental goods in his bedroom. Some of them included carnivore teeth, a toy U.S. airplane, a toy guitar, a toy lion, a toy zebra, and many others. These items had great sentimental value to the writer.

He asserted that the collection cheered him up. From this process, one can deduce that the author needed external items to keep him focused on his writing. Although he was a neat man, one can assume that he had difficulties in letting go of old things. This sentimentally probably pushed him to do more than he would have if the memorabilia did not exist.

The author’s creative process was jealously guarded. He often explained that when one overly scrutinized the writing process, then one would neutralize its value. He claimed that writing was solid and fragile at the same time. When one talked about the fragile part too much, then one would lose out on it completely. This individual felt that it was imperative to stick to the solid aspects alone.

Therefore, if one intends on making commentaries about Hemingway’s artistic process, one must interpret them from his actions. The author thought of writing as an occupation that could not integrate witnesses during production. People were only relevant after one’s work was complete. Creativity was a sacred process to this writer, so he probably refrained from talking about it because of this (Trodd 21).

One thing that emanates from most of Hemingway’s interviews is his strong dedication to his work. One may assume that a creative process ought to be spontaneous and unplanned; however, this was not Ernest’s approach. He was immensely disciplined when he wrote. First, he chose to stand rather than sit when working. It is not clear why he chose to do this, but one may deduce that he was probably excited about his work.

When he got the inspiration, he would get energized like a young boy. He would often find himself perspiring because of this. It only comes naturally to stand when one is excited about something. Usually, he would stay in this state of stimulation until midday when the artistic touch wore off. At that time, the author would give himself a treat. Besides this, Ernest always wrote in the morning.

He believed that this was the best time to write because one’s mind was clear. It was also unlikely for people to disrupt him at that time in the morning. Clearly, this was someone who took his writing very seriously. If he dedicated the most productive part of his day towards it, then it must have been something precious.

Nonetheless, one should not assume that the high level of discipline indicated that he did not enjoy writing. Ernest told many interviewers that the hours he dedicated to writing were his most pleasurable moments.

Creativity, to Hemingway, involved a considerable level of control. In certain instances, he had a lot to write about after midday, however, he would stop when it was time. This was done in order to keep the juices flowing. When there was still something left in him from the previous day, Ernest found that it was easier to continue with his narration the next day.

He often realized that it was quite hard to wait and hold back until the next day; this was his toughest moment. Hemingway explained that it look a lot of energy and will power to put aside the stories that he was working on when he was away from his typewriter. However, he mastered the art of controlling those thoughts after some time (Smith 9).

This author also believed that any creative process could always be reworked. In fact, when he woke up in the morning to work on a certain piece, he would read through the previous day’s writings and consider rewording them. Sometimes, reworking the piece would take much longer than expected, especially if something important was at stake.

For example, when working on endings, Hemingway often reedited his narratives so many times. In one instance, he wrote the ending 39 times before completing it. Hemingway explained that when he reread his pieces, more creative juices would flow because he would be inspired to complete what he had started. This process put him at a place where he knew that he had to keep going.

Hemingway, like many other writers, sometimes experienced dry spells. In these instances, he would feel no inspiration. However, he explained that in order to prevent that from happening, he would always stop when he still knew what was going to unfold in the narrative.

This always gave him a reason to keep going even when he was not sure about where he would take the characters. It took the author a very long period of time to figure out this formula, and it worked well for him.

Even though this author was quite fond of working in his house, he was still quite capable of working in different environments. For example, he wrote many masterpieces in Havana at a hotel called Ambos Mundos. The writer’s inspiration was not confined to his house. He asserted that there were several places that he worked in. Ernest did not mind working in different circumstances.

He only had a problem with visitors or other interruptions like telephone calls. Therefore one can say that this author functioned well in quiet environments. It was at this point when he could be left alone with his thoughts, and ideas would flow. To Hemingway, the telephone and visitors ruined great work.

Therefore, if he had to write in a place that had many people, he had to be ruthless about his private time in order to get anything done (Robinson 90).

After looking at the physical environment that Ernest enjoyed working in, it is necessary to understand the psychological or emotional conditions that inspired this author’s imagination. Hemingway explained that one of the best emotional states to write in was when one was in love.

He explained that when a person was in love, he/she could experience a felling of inhibition that no other emotion could create. However, the author also adds that one can write at any time; love just had a way of making that writing better.

Hemingway also asserted that one can also write well when one is not worried about one’s obligations. Poor health and financial challenges can block one’s creativity tremendously. In fact, during Hemingway’s last years, he started worrying a lot about paying taxes and meeting other financial obligations.

As a result, he accomplished very little in his field. In his hey-days, the author affirmed that worrying has the capacity to destroy writing. He explained that one’s subconscious needed to be unoccupied by other issues when one was engaging in one’s art. He believed that the subconscious held one’s artistic reserves, and when it was occupied with other things, then it could not operate properly.

He further added that any kind of worry was bad for creativity. If one worries about one’s health, then that would also take a toll on one’s subconscious mind and one’s ability to write. Despite pointing out all these psychological factors that can destroy good artistic work, the author affirmed that when one found pleasure in writing, one could do it even in the worst circumstances.

Creativity came at all times to him because he was doing something he loved (Merion 14). He believed that it was only death that would stop him from engaging in his art. In essence, Hemingway was saying that certain emotional and psychological conditions cause writers to write more creatively, however, writing was a full time occupation that could continue even if one’s emotional and psychological well being were not ideal.

In many interviews, the author also believed that certain things could be done to enhance one’s creative juices outside the writing room. For instance, he cited reading as one of them. Hemingway felt that competent writers had the ability to balance their responsibilities as knowledgeable people. Even though many writers spent a small portion of their time writing, they still engaged in the profession by acquiring new knowledge.

In Hemingway’s mind, creativity could be likened to a well; it needed to be filled with good water. The process of filling it with good water was synonymous to acquiring new knowledge. In essence, he wanted to prove that creativity came from within, but it was inspired by external knowledge.

Hemingway also held that sometimes one could engage in certain actions that could destroy one’s creativity. He said that this could happen even when one believed that one was still a writer. An example he cited was the case of the journalist.

To Hemingway, journalism was only valuable to young writers who wanted to jumpstart their careers. However, if one reaches a certain point in one’s career as a journalist, one may start to destroy one’s creativity. To this writer, not all types of writing require creativity, and some of them actually wipe out creativity.

Hemingway also felt that sometimes creativity could be learnt from other people. He often cited a number of painters, sculptors, poets and writers who taught him how to express his ideas. Nonetheless, in the creative process, one must learn how to articulate one’s point of view. Other artists can only inspire someone; they cannot be the sole basis for writing something (Gurko 34).

Lastly, this author believed that when one was making a literary piece, one should not think too much about the work’s meaning. He believed that analysts and literary critics existed for a reason. Authors had a hard time merely writing their books; therefore, asking them to interpret was unfair. He explained that when he was writing, he was never bothered too much about what his audience would interpret from the work.

He felt that his imagination would be bogged down if he did this. To Hemingway, readers completed the creative process by discussing and analyzing his writings. Ernest also added that one was not obligated to expound on one’s writing; this was someone else’s task.


Hemingway asserted that the creative process was special, and should not be analyzed. However, in most instances, he believed that inspiration came when one was isolated and undistracted, he also believed in letting one’s juices flow; focusing too much on other’s interpretations hampers this process.

Ernest asserted that writing could be done at all times but the best work came when a writer was in a strong emotional and psychological state.

Works Cited

Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the pursuit of heroism. NY: Crowell Company, 1996. Print.

Merion, Jeff. Channeling the Canon: An interview with Ernest Hemingway. The by-gone bureau. 3 Mar. 2008. Web.

Muller, T. (2010). “The uses of authenticity: Hemingway and the literary field 1926-1936.” Journal of modern literature 33.1(2010): 28-42. Print.

Plimpton, George. “Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction.” Paris Review 18 (1958): 14-56. Print.

Robinson, Daniel. “My true occupation is that of a writer: Hemingway’s passport correspondence.” The Hemingway Review 2 (2005): 87-93. Print.

Smith, Paul. A reader’s guide to the short stories of Ernest Hemingway. Boston: Hall and Company, 1997. Print.

Trodd, Zoe. “Hemingway’s camera eye: the problems of language and an interwar politics of form. The Hemingway review 26.2(2007): 7-22. Print.

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