On Writing · Publishing

Today’s Truth: Hemingway on the Worrying Writer


Ernest Hemingway (such a looker…)

image: blog.ali-comunicazione.com

My question to you is: Do you often think about and/or worry about your writing? About getting your ideas onto the page? About your characters and thier stories?

Here is what Hemingway says about writing everyday and about ‘worrying’.

Mice(young writer to Hemingway): How much should you write a day?

Y.C. (Hemingway): The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Mice: All right.

Y.C.: Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it.

Mice: How can you learn not to worry?

Y.C.: By not thinking about it. As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that.

By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, pp.216-217, (pg. 41-42 Ernest Hemingway on Writing Edited by Larry W. Phillips)

I think about my YA novel everyday. Whether I do any writing for it or not, I am constantly thinking about it and hoping for a window of time to sit down and work on it. 

I think about blogs for The Windsor Star. I write down my ideas on the wordpress site and then go back to fill in the actual writing when I get the chance. 

I think about what to write in this blog. What themes I want to write about and how my writing life is going. 

I think it’s safe to say that I think about writing about 30% of my day. Maybe more. Does thinking equal worrying? Sometimes thinking shifts into worry when I don’t get to actually write. Just ask the hubby. He can see my worry from thrity miles away. 

Does this tire me out? Yes. 

Am I finished my novel? No. 

Have I ever worried myself into ‘inaction’? Yes. 

Do I stop writing when the writing’s ‘good’? It depends. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hemingway’s point that to think about, to worry about one’s writing is not a good idea. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because it doesn’t fit my writing process. And I sort of wish I could invite Hem over for some tea so we could talk about it together. 

I did the next best thing. I called my writing partner (that’s what I’m calling you from now on, C.L.M.) to see what his opinion was on the matter. 

He brought up a valid point, which is as follows (he likely said it more eloquently than this!):

If we were able to write every day like Hemingway did, then we could easily subsrcibe to this writing process. Of course it would be great to stop when the going was good if we knew that the next day we could pick right up where we left it. Of course it would be essential to leave the ‘worrying’ to the subconscious because, again, we’ve got tomorrow to get back to the words. 

It’s like our current ‘day’ jobs. While they’re not ‘writing’ jobs, they are jobs all the same, and when we’re finished them, we don’t go home and worry about them or at least we do are best to not worry or think about them. We relax, rest, do other things then ‘the day job work’. We know we’re going back tomorrow. We know we can pick up where we left off. 

I whole-heartedly agree. I know that I worry about what I want/need to write because I don’t get to do it every day. Even with two writing days a week, they are not consecutive and they are not consistently for working on the same project. Call that poor time management or a busy life or whatever, but the state of my writing life has me always yearning for more…and doing my best to appreciate the time I do have to write. It’s about fitting it in more than anything. Having said that, ‘thinking about’ my stories, my characters or anything writing-related is a constant in my daily life. I have to be prepared for when time lovingly unfolds a space for me to write or even better when I actully ‘write’ on one of my days that I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing just that. 

Mostly, I just want to finish my YA novel. Like, really badly. 

I know that means giving it priority and I’m not quite sure why I don’t do that. Fear, probably. But that’s bunk cuz there’s nothing to be afraid of…except more rejection or even worse – success. Right? 

What are your thoughts on the worrying writer? Are you a worrying writer?