Handwritten note by Ernest Hemingway to a young writer, suggesting books to read for his reading list.
My analysis is at the bottom of the page.
“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time,” Hemingway said, tapping my arm with his finger. “Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along.”
His recommended reading list:
The reading list:
- The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane
- The Open Boat by Stephen Crane
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- Dubliners by James Joyce
- The Red and the Black by Stendhal
- Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
- Hail and Farewell by George Moore
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- The Oxford Book of English Verse
- The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Far Away and Long Ago by W. H. Hudson
- The American by Henry James
Hemingway’s troubled personal life is as well known as his writings. But where does one see such things in handwriting? The genius, the inner demons, the delicious complexities are spotted very simply in his penmanship.
What is the very first thing YOU notice about his handwriting?
The writing slopes downward, doesn’t it! See, you were born a natural graphologist.
The sloping baselines reveal depression. These are very strong sloping baselines.
While there is much information revealed in his handwriting we will hit just a few highlights here.
What jumps out and grabs me next are his lower loops. There are strong themes with them.
One is the long straight stroke sans any loops. Revealing determination and drive yes but more so revealing a loner, craving yet more alone time.
The slant of his writing shows him to be “in his head” a lot. He is pragmatic and logical, yet the particular lower loop that is full, fat and wide shows his fantastic vivid imagination. In fact in my RMGA course, (https://kathimcknight.com/homestudy.html), this stroke is a classic stroke we refer to that is ideal for fiction writers to possess.
The inflated lower loops reveal vivid imagination, exaggeration and being larger than life in how they express.
The writer will do things in the extreme. In Hemingway’s life this showed up as extreme talent, extreme drinking, extreme melancholy, extreme success…… you get the picture.
Look at the words, “ago” and “george” in his letter. See if you can find at least one more in his letter up above.
The other lower zone loops reveal someone who has unresolved issues, unfulfilled desires and one who tends to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
In fact the irregularity within the variety of his lower loops reveal excitability and lack of control.
(It’s okay for you to have different ways you write your lower loops by the way. Its more about the way you write them, that matters)
It is sad he was so tormented in his life – but he used his inner demons as great fuel for great literary works of art.
You can see from the long list of books he recommend for reading, he had a voracious appetite. The writing is on the wall.