Live Like Hemingway: The Importance of Having a Good Routine

Hemingway may have had the reputation of a booze-hound, but his work was the main priority in his life.

Although his drinking has been romanticized, it always took a backseat to his craft.  His writing is the result of dedication to a good routine – not his booze fueled good times.  Have you ever tried writing hungover?  Fighting off the headache long enough to make a cup of coffee is challenging enough; writing Pulitzer Prize winning fiction is a near impossibility.  Hemingway loved his liquor, and even created his own drink, but he was also an early bird who wrote every day from around 6 am until noon:

   When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. 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 and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

As you can see, Hemingway didn’t party his life away, he established a daily routine for his writing that allowed him to maintain his productivity.

There’s a misconception that Hemingway drank while he wrote.

An internet search for Hemingway quotes always seems to produce “write drunk, edit sober,” a quote that is tirelessly disseminated through blogs and social media. This quote is erroneously attributed to Hemingway, but he never said it.  Although this advice might appeal to those who think that good art is only produced by tortured addicts on the fringe of society, it is a complete misrepresentation of the example that Hemingway set.  Here’s a direct quote from his memoir A Movable Feast, which directly contradicts the idea that he would write drunk:

“My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing.”

Now that we have expelled the myth of Hemingway writing drunk, we can explore how to establish a routine and why it is important.

Why Establishing a Routine is Important

Establishing a routine is important to find success in many areas of life.  Want to become a virtuoso on piano?  Practicing consistently is the only way to accomplish this.  By establishing a daily routine, we ensure that we set aside a portion of our day or week to accomplishing our goals.  There are a few reasons why having a routine can increase our productivity:

  1. Having a routine helps us block out distractions from the outside world

    Creating a routine helps set boundaries that protect your time from the other elements of your life.  By not letting external distractions encroach on your productivity, you make the most of your time.  If you set aside a half hour to work out every day, work out for that half hour and do nothing else.  Don’t check your email, pay your bills, or answer the text that your friend just sent for that half hour.  When he was working on a story, Hemingway wrote from 6 am until noon without fail.  You should pick a time for your activity and do the same.

  2. Having a routine increases efficiency

    Having a set time for a certain activity eliminates the drain on your time caused by procrastination and avoidance.  We’ve all been there: a nice, free, wide-open Saturday morning that disintegrates into a Saturday night, leaving us wondering what the hell we did all day.  You can’t set your tasks aside until you feel like doing them; you need to have a plan.  A solid routine eliminates waste and can drive you towards your goals at a much faster rate.

  3. With a solid routine, work becomes second nature

    Let’s say you decide to get up and write at 6 am just like Hemingway.  Those first few early mornings are going to be rough.  You usually get up at 7 and your body and mind just aren’t used to getting out of bed this early.  Unfortunately, there is no way around this shock to your system.  But I usually watch TV after work!  Well your new routine is to hit the gym.  Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.  The best part of creating a routine is just that – you get into a routine.  After a week or two, this new routine will just be a regular part of your day.  It will become second nature, and you’ll reap the benefits in the form of productivity.  Those few paragraphs you wrote each morning are adding up into a novel, that half hour in the gym after work has added fifty pounds to your bench, you’ve finally been making progress in the area of your life that you’ve been struggling with and it’s all because of your dedication to your new routine.

 

So there you have it, a powerful case for creating a routine similar to Hemingway’s.  Remember to drink as much as you want, but to save time to dedicate towards bettering yourself and accomplishing your goals, and never write drunk.

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