I’ve just handed my fourth novel off to the first of my beta readers and I’m taking a little time to reflect, not to mention time to do a few loads of towels and go through the “where the hell did this junk come from” pile on my dresser. I’ll be starting d4 in October, and it now looks like I will in fact write a collection of six books. Wow.
I’m thinking of Ernest Hemingway today. It’s somewhat embarrassing that I’ve never read one of his novels even though I love many of his quotes. Recently I found this one. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Five years ago I would have found that silly and overly dramatic. Today it strikes me as the most succinct and accurate description of writing fiction that I have ever read. Not that I write as well as Hemingway. He wasn’t talking about good or bad writing, just about the act of pouring yourself into a story. No matter how overblown it seems, the truth is that I have pretty much gotten up for three days a week for the last seven months and picked up my lovely new ultralight computer, taken it out to my porch, and bled all over it. And found it fun.
Now that I’m handing the bloody mess off to friends and strangers alike, I have to wonder what motivates such odd behavior. I’m a very private person, yet I’m incapable of creating a story that isn’t filled with my most personal dreams and fears. I’m also incapable of not creating stories. I am aware that this didn’t end well for Hemingway, or for a lot of other writers that I admire. Others seemed to have navigated those same waters and survived and even thrived. What makes the difference?
Maybe while I’m on break I’ll skim a few writer’s biographies and try to figure out how others bandaged up their open wounds in between books. Maybe I’ll even finally read “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. I mean, how can I be writing a collection of stories that starts off with the premise that we are all one, and not have read a book that takes its title from a 1624 quote that says
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
Words worth considering as our world contemplates one more outbreak of war, and as each one of us sits on our porch and tries to bandage our own wounds from the previous day.