10 Qualties of Good Writers According to Ernest Hemingway

I compiled this list while reading Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips. The book is a collection of quotes andImage passages that Hemingway wrote about writing throughout his life. All the passages I quote here are from the section titled “The Qualities of a Writer.” Enjoy!

  1. Talent– “First, there must be talent, much talent. Talent such as Kipling had.”
  2. Discipline– “Then there must me discipline. The discipline of Flaubert.”
  3. Seriousness About Writing– “…real seriousness in regard to writing being one of the two absolute necessities. The other, unfortunately, is talent.”
  4. Belief in Oneself– “Then there must be the conception of what it can be and an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris, to prevent faking.”
  5. Intelligence and the Ability to Learn– “A good writer should know as near everything as possible. Naturally he will not. A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge. There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heaviliy for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things…”
  6. Honesty– “Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be.”
  7. Sense of Justice and Injustice– “A writer without a sense of justice and of injustice would be better off editing the year book or a school for exceptional children that writing novels.”
  8. Imagination– “[Imagination] is the one thing beside honesty that a good writer must have. The more he learns from experience the more truly he can imagine. If he gets so he can imagine truly enough people will think that the things he relates all really happened and that he is just reporting.”
  9. A Bullshit Detector– “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”
  10. A Love of Words– “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time…”


About Sarah JS

Aspiring writer, lover of words, book nerd, working editor, and permanent student of the world

Posted on April 5, 2014, in A Writer's Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You are a true, honest, disciplined, writer with a vivid imagination! Love you Sarah Jean!!! Xo

  2. Talent! What exactly does that mean? Something a writer is born with? Can a writer develop talent over time?

    • It is a good question. In my opinion, some people are naturally better(more talented) writers but even a moderate writer can hone their skills into talent if they work hard enough.

  1. Pingback: 8 Reasons to Write a Novel (That Probably Won’t Get Published) | Glass Typewriter

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