Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thanks Mr. Hemingway

Frustration over a writing funk descended on me last week and the stench lingered until late yesterday afternoon.

The book, Ernest Hemingway on Writing, was my ticket out of the slump. It fanned the flames of my sagging attention span and re-energize my writing energy.

If you're a writer, then I know you can identify with this up and down, start and stop and high and low characteristic of the writing life.

But regardless of what throws us into this wild current, we never really lose the love of writing or the innate passion to extricate the thoughts and emotions tumbling inside and spread them out on the page or screen.

We cringe at the frequent flash of thought that says, "Maybe I'm not really a writer." We almost want to run away and hide because the implication is too painful to consider. Suppose it is true, but we know its not; it can't be. For once we feel drawn to do what we can't seem to do in those confusing times, we know that the need and passion to write is alive and well. Our ability to actually get the words out, may be weak, flagging behind the obvious desire. We may feel as if our hearts are about to break under the weight of frustration and exhaustion from our fruitless efforts. Yet, every day for those few days or weeks sometimes, we come to our writing space and wait and try and wait some more and try again. Its pitiful to look at what we produce or don't produce.

Nevertheless, one word, one phrase, one sentence, one paragraph is all it takes some times. It may come from our own efforts or someone else's and both worked for me. Like a tortured soul, I wrote single words, senseless phrases, disjointed sentences and a few ill-constructed paragraphs.

I didn't consider my daily writing sessions productive, but I suppose they were therapeutic. I should have been pleased. At least I wrote something. That's what writers do. They write, despite the turmoil whether it reigns within or without. Yet I remain dissatisfied. I hated feeling so lost and dry. I wanted out.

As I skipped through the book reading random quotes, my frustration and weariness lifted slowly. I lost myself in Mr. Hemingway's words and soon realized that I was on my way back.

As I identified with some of his thoughts and experiences, I reached for my journal. My pen formed words and nine pages later, I knew I had returned from the wilderness, refreshed and breathless. Heart racing and passion aflame, I hurried to my desk to write some more.

After several hours and just before I crawled under the covers, I opened the book again and my eyes fell on this excerpt from a letter Mr. Hemingway wrote to Maxwell Perkins in 1938:

"...writing is a hard business Max but nothing makes you feel better."

Usually I write my way through these occasional blocks, slumps and dryness. But not this time. Mr. Hemingway helped me find my way back to my writing. I was home and yes, I felt better.

No comments:

Share |