Mastodon The Writing Desk: Ernest Hemingway's Writing Habits

9 April 2014

Ernest Hemingway's Writing Habits

Ernest Hemingway in 1939
Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 yet in his lifetime only published seven novels, some collections of short stories and two non-fiction works.

His writing started in Paris in the 1920’s, where he worked as a foreign correspondent. He carried a notebook and pencil in his pocket and liked to write in cafés, drafting his famous novel The Sun Also Rises

Later at his home in Key West, Florida, Hemingway did most of his writing in his bedroom, which was cluttered with books on and heaps of newspapers. His typewriter was permanently set up on top a cluttered bookcase, which he called his ‘work desk’. 

He liked to start early, sometimes not even bothering to dress and once said, ‘By writing in the mornings, you make sure that writing does get done. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next.

His initial drafts were usually made with pencils and written on onionskin typewriter paper, kept on a clipboard to the left side of his typewriter. His handwriting has been described as ‘boyish’, without much concern for punctuation or capital letters and he had a habit of marking an X at the end of sentences. He kept half a dozen sharp pencils and said, ‘Wearing down seven number-two pencils is a good day’s work.’  .

When he was content with the draft, Hemingway liked to type it standing up, often for several hours without a break, with his typewriter at chest height. He used several different typewriters over the years, including Coronas and an Underwood Noiseless Portable, as well as Royal and Halda portables. (See video below.) At the end of the day’s writing, Hemingway would count the number of words he had written and record his progress on a chart made from the side of a cardboard box pinned permanently to the bedroom wall. He considered he’d done well if he could average five-hundred words a day.

Other posts about the habits of famous writers:


  1. Is this a series? If not could it be? If yes, how can I find the others?

    1. Hi Lynne thanks for visiting - I'm writing one of these each month, so to see the others scroll down to the 'label cloud' bottom right and click on 'Writers' - any suggestions of who you'd like to see here?

  2. Neat series. Shared it with a friend of mine who's very into old typewriters.

    It'd be interesting (for me) to hear about Clive Cussler, Robert Parker, and/or Tom Clancy.

    1. Thanks Bob - I am enjoying the research!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks very much!


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