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7 Things Creative Leaders Can Learn from Hemingway

Why should Ernest Hemingway’s writing process matter to you? Great question. If you’re a leader, an artist, a musician, or a creative of some fashion, there’s a lot you can learn from a master like Hemingway. Whether it’s a sermon you’re prepping, a book you’re writing, a blog you’re launching, or a creative video you’re producing—Hemingway’s process has a lot to offer. Here are 7 things that E. Hemingway did that helped him produce amazing work.

1. Hemingway found a creative process for writing that worked for him. Hemingway woke at 7:30, ate breakfast, and started writing at 9 a.m. He stopped around 2 p.m. When Hemingway was writing, he was completely present—when he was done, he stopped obsessing over it and left it until the next day. If you want to produce great work, you have to find a creative routine that’s effective for you and stick to it. Be present when working. Be absent when not.

2. Hemingway was a man of action. Hemingway hated to talk about writing. He thought it took the mystery out of the craft. He also believed it would make you a bad writer to talk about it too much. Simple principle: If you’re a leader, don’t spend your time talking about your work, spend your time actually doing it. Learn to choose action over words…unless, of course, your action is words, like Hemingway.  

3. Hemingway trusted his instinct. Hemingway did not outline his work; instead, he just wrote “what happened next.” He believed that the story should come naturally, and he believed it could come from him. Have confidence in what you’re doing, and trust the gifts that God has given you. Don’t try to work ahead on everything—and don’t try to imitate other creatives—just start on what needs to happen next and repeat.

4. Hemingway studied the masters. Hemingway studied the best writers and tried to defeat them at their strengths. He was cocky at times, but his goal was to beat every writer, living or dead, at their craft. Seek to be the best at what you do. Be competitive. Don’t be a wimp. (Don’t be a jerk either, but you get the idea.) 

5. Hemingway gave incredible attention to detail. Hemingway was known for writing only 300-500 words a day. Often, he would spend hours on just one sentence to make sure he got it right. Spend time on that one sentence, whatever it might be in your area of creativity. 

6. Hemingway knew when to stop. Hemingway stopped while the juices where flowing and not when they ran dry. This ensured him that there was more to write the next day.  

7. Hemingway believed that his ability to enjoy life outside of writing would make him a better writer…and it did. If you don’t enjoy life outside of your job, chances are your performance will suffer. Learn to love life and seek out new experiences. Do this often, and whatever you do, do it with passion—whether it’s playing soccer with your kids in the backyard or running with the bulls like Hemingway.

Side Note: There are, of course, many habits of Hemingway’s that you don’t want to copy: His heavy drinking, penchant for espionage, and bad relationships to name a few.

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Brian is a writer and editor from Ohio. He works with creative and innovative people to discover the top stories, resources and trends to equip and inspire the Church.