Friday, July 23, 2010

Hemingway and Wal-mart

Ernest Hemingway said: "I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'"
I never get this thing called “Writer’s Block”. Likely, there are those people out there who wish I would get it, but I don’t. Mostly, I have come to suspect those of us without deadlines or editors, or for that matter, any sort of pressure to write at all pretty much have it a lot easier than those real writers who have to make a living doing this.
Hemingway went into combat to improve his witting. Among writers and lovers, there is a theory that states those who suffer the most as the most capable of being able to feel the most. There may be, in point of fact, some truth to this, but I will avoid both marriage and war even if it means living alone, and writing no better than I do.
Papa Hemingway was nuts. He was a brilliant writer, and none better in a genre that he alone exists in, but the man was certifiable. The clarity of his work, the pureness of his writing, and the sheer domination he had over the Muse that tormented him is awesome. I don’t like many of his books but I do admire the man’s skill. The man rocked out with a manual typewriter. His ability to describe a scene is unequaled. But damn if the man wasn’t a freaking loon.
Hemingway locked up productively speaking and stopped writing for a while, just before he published “The Old Man and the Sea”. He went for a spell without being able to do anything he liked, or for that matter, anything anyone else liked either. The alcohol might have spoken to a lot of that, but Papa was a professional. He was a writer and he drank. I suspect the rest of us writers might not be so damn driven to drink if it were not for Hemingway. To become like the legend you have to drink like that legend.
I don’t drink nearly as much as I once did, and I never write while drinking. Someone sat me down one day with a stack of short stories I had written while sober, and another I had written while drunk. She explained to me I wasn’t funny when I was drinking. Nothing I wrote was humorous, or for that matter, was meant to be. “Being funny, Mike, is part of being alive” is what she told me. There are things you do to improve your writing and there are things you stop doing to improve your writing.
Okay, mostly I don’t drink and write but I have been known to sit down and pound out an email or an essay and then the next morning not remember some of it. Beer is a good suspect when this occurs. But I’m such a damn lightweight I can be totally wrecked off four beers. I suspect both my drinking ability and my writing skill is inversely proportion to Papa’s.

Writer’s Block to me is something akin to having a condition that prevents me from breathing. But as I said earlier, I have no deadlines except my self-imposed deadline to write every day. It isn’t a real deadline it’s just that I do write every day. Eventually, like a cat in cave full of bats and laser pointers, something is going to trigger an impulse. I swear to dog if you are in dire need of something to write about go to Wal-Mart. If nothing else either your belief in divine creation will become sullied, or your knowledge of evolution will take a beating. And that’s just in the parking lot.

If people cannot, or do not inspire you to write you are not paying attention. Human beings are exceedingly dangerous animals. Were we to be happened upon by aliens I strongly suspect they would either wipe us out as a defensive measure, or stay the hell away from us until we calmed down a bit. Up until the advent of the Taser, do you realize there were almost no nonlethal projectile weapons? Papa didn’t have to go into war to get combat experience, no, all he really had to do is go to Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon.

Once upon a time it took some doing to reach more than the people you knew personally but now if you’re good, and you know how to work the system you can reach as many people as you can figure out how to reach, and who spend their time online and reading. Some of the videos I’ve seen lately, including a profanity laced rant by an eleven year old girl, make me question this medium, but I suspect she isn’t the first eleven year old in history to use that sort of language and she will not be the last. The obvious solution is to flee this place, and never return, but that is paramount to surrender.

“Write the truest sentence that you know.”

It really is that simple you know. Look at how much truth is there in just seven words. In that very short sentence Papa commands himself, and you too, and me, and everyone else who ever waited for The Muse to kick in, waited for that idea, that feeling, that one good sentence to appear, Papa demands only that you do what you know. That sentence is there. It is there within you and it always has been and it will always always always be there inside of you.

Writer’s Block is a myth. It is a tale told by those who do not write. If you write, all you need do is listen, listen to the truth inside of you. You do not need war, or old men, or insanity and you sure as hell do not need to drink, or to die, to write.
Hell, the man wasted six words; write.

Take Care,
Mike

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