A Productivity Tip from Ernest Hemingway

At the moment I am reading/listening to Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. Currey has meticulously hunted down the daily rituals of hundreds of famous creative thinkers; Darwin, Beethoven, Franklin, Kafka, and Bacon all make an appearance. But the one that made me pause the audiobook to write this post is Ernest Hemingway’s entry. I haven’t read any Hemingway (to my shame) but I am fixing that next year.

Currey quotes Hemingway from an interview he did with the Paris Review. Hemingway describes his early morning writing habit, detailing how he always stops when he knows “what is going to happen next”. The next morning then, instead of sitting down and not knowing what to write, Hemingway does; he’s been anticipating this moment since yesterday.

Hearing this, I realised how transferable this is to other areas. When you are designing a website, writing code, editing photos, doing your tax return, or, yes, writing a novel, don’t work until you are unsure how to continue, instead work until you are certain how you will continue. End your work session when you know that you must next code the footer, write a specific method, use a particular photoshop function, input certain receipts, or write your favourite characters dialogue in a key scene. Next time when you sit down to work, you know what must be done. I’m going to try this for the next while and see what happens! I suggest you do too.