Every writer is
different. Each has his or her own way of working, a method for getting words
down on paper. Some are procrastinators, some are methodical, some write in
between juggling a daytime job and caring for a family.
Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was one of the most celebrated
American authors of the twentieth century, a novelist, short story writer, and
journalist. His short sharp writing style had considerable influence on
twentieth century fiction writing. But though he has had many imitators no one
can quite pull it off the way Hem could. Most of his work was produced from the
1920s to the 1950s: seven novels, six short story collections, and two
non-fiction books. Many of his works are considered classics of American
fiction and he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
lived in Paris in the 1920s with the first of his four wives, Hadley, and their
young son, there was not enough room in their Spartan apartment for him to
work. So he would often go and sit in one of the bistros or cafés nearby and
write quietly in a corner.
“It was a
pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on
the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above
the bench and ordered a cafe au lait.
The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and
a pencil and started to write. I was writing about up in Michigan and since it
was a wild, cold, blowing day it was that sort of day in the story. I had
already seen the end of fall come through boyhood, youth and young manhood, and
in one place you could write about it better than in another. That was called
transplanting yourself, I thought, and it could be as necessary with people as
with other sorts of growing
things. But in the story the boys were drinking and this made me thirsty and I
ordered a rum St James. This tasted wonderful on the cold day and I kept on
writing, feeling very well and feeling the good Martinique rum warm me all
through my body and my spirit.” (A
Often he would
become completely absorbed in what he was writing so that he didn’t notice either
the time, or anyone else around him and would come to much later as if he had
been sleeping. Then he would order, say, a dozen oysters along with a
half-carafe of the local dry white wine and dawdle over that until it was time
to go home or go on to meet friends.
After a while Hem
and his wife moved to larger premises and there he would get up a daybreak when
it was freezing cold in the apartment and begin writing as he gradually warmed
and the sun shone through the windows. If he was writing a short story or a
novel, he would write until about midday and finish when he knew what was going
to happen next in the action. In other words he would stop short just before a
key moment. So the next day, when he sat down to write, he would read what he
had written the day before, making any necessary changes, and then just
continue where he left off. He always said that the agonizing thing about
writing was waiting for the next day to come around.
In many ways
the rest of his life was a bit of a mess. He was unfaithful to his wife, drank
to excess, gambled away his money, was something of an adventurer, and
eventually committed suicide a few days before his sixty-second birthday. But
he was always disciplined when it came to writing. It was as if he knew that it
was his one most important talent and that it had to be nurtured and protected.