Read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Invaluable Advice on Writing and Talent


Over the weekend, we posted some of celebrities’ rudest letters to their fans. But today, Letters of Note restores our faith in famous artists with a missive from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Frances Turnbull, a Radcliffe student and family friend, in response to a story she sent for his feedback. While it isn’t what you would call a sweet letter, it contains some of the most valuable advice on writing that we’ve ever read. Fitzgerald mentions in a postscript that Turnbull has talent, but goes on to explain that possessing talent at writing “is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.” Instead of relying on raw skill, he encourages her to put the entire force of her emotions and experience into her writing. “It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile,” he writes. Read Fitzgerald’s entire reply (which we’re tempted to print out, frame, and hang over our desk to encourage us on days when our motivation’s flagging) at Letters of Note.