Let me tell you – I am a member of numerous writing groups, and not a day goes by where I don’t read at least one of those phrases. Not a single day. I wonder then: If writing is such a problem, why are there (and I am not exaggerating) millions of books published every year. Blogs…who knows how many million blogs are skulking about. I can tell you this: If you don’t know what you are writing about, you’ll probably get stuck. If you don’t have a passion for writing, you may hit a wall. If you cannot envision where the story is going, you may very well get brain block (I just invented that term)!
By now, you may be asking yourself, “why is this guy telling me how to fix this problem?” The answer to that question and the answer to these dilemma’s come to me from a most unlikely source. The truth is – Ernest Hemingway told me. Some of you are doing the math… “How old must this guy Hayden be if he received guidance from Hemingway?” Let me save you the time. While I did get advice from Ernest Hemingway, the advice came via the pages in one of his books.
Let me have a show of hands. How many of you read “A Movable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway? One, two, three… Not too many of you. Now that is so sad because the answer to our problem lies on the pages in that book.
As Ernest Hemingway tells his story, secrets to his success are revealed. For example, he once mentioned at the beginning of one of his stories that he always begins a chapter with the truth. He says, (paraphrasing) make the first sentence as true as true is. Once that sentence is written, everything else will fall into place. That works for fiction as well. “As Chekhov as my witness, that five-armed man came at me with five knives, each swirling in the hand that grasps it.” Write with conviction, and even fiction may become your story’s truth.
Another lesson Hemingway taught me was this: Never keep writing until you run out of things to say. He commented in one of his stories that he would always leave a bit of the story off of the paper at the end of the day. Doing so gives him a jump-start in the morning. He wakes. He grabs his pencil and paper – quickly finishing the thought he had left in his head the night before. Like magic, as he begins his work day, he is writing.
For many of us, writing is a passion. It is for me. Writers whose work has stood the test of time are teaching us, albeit unknowingly through their writing. If you have left all of those great authors behind in school, take some time to get to know them again, or maybe for the first time. They haven’t become great for no reason. Thanks Ernest Hemingway for sharing your wisdom with me. I am looking forward to finding more tips on writing as I devour the writings of your books, and the books of others.
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