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Ernest Hemingway FAQ: Writing

Question I am trying to track down a piece Ernest Hemingway wrote for a May 1935 edition of Esquire magazine. I've heard this article was partial inspiration for one of his most popular novels, The Old Man and the Sea.

Answer By-Line: Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades, edited by William White, is a wonderful collection of Hemingway articles and letters spanning almost four decades. It is fascinating to examine his craft at its earliest of stages and to see first-hand how he matures as a writer as the years progress.

Section II of By-Line: Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades consists of seventeen articles Hemingway wrote for Esquire between the years of 1933-1936. Several of the articles focus on one of Hemingway's great passions in life: fishing. "On the Blue Water: A Gulf Stream Letter," which appeared in an April 1936 edition of Esquire is generally considered the seed for Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.

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Question Did Ernest Hemingway's drinking ever affect his writing?

Answer Some have blamed Hemingway's writer's block on the excessive drinking he engaged in during the later years of his life. A more likely culprit, however, may be the electroshock treatments he received at the Mayo Clinic in late 1960 and early 1961. These treatments severely impaired Hemingway's memory and took from him the concentration necessary to write.

The legend of Hemingway the drinker should never be mixed (so to speak) with Hemingway the writer. When Hemingway was writing, he was as sober as a priest on Sunday and he wrote with as much clarity as any writer could. At the Finca, he did have a portable bar within arm's reach when relaxing and reading, but not when writing. What James Lundquist once said of Sinclair Lewis can most certainly be applied to Ernest Hemingway: "He was a writer who drank, not, as so many have believed, a drunk who wrote."

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Question How many words did Ernest Hemingway typically write in a day?

Answer The following is from "On the Books" by Roger Bourne Linscott reprinted in Conversations with Ernest Hemingway edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli:

"Mr. Hemingway works on a strict schedule that produces an average of 500 to 1,000 words a day. 'I start in at seven in the morning,' he says, 'and I always quit when I'm going good, so that I'll be able to pick right up again the next day.' "

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