Looking through the author interviews on The Paris Review, I realized something. I like my books the way I like my television–trashy with unnecessary romantic subplots.
It is not surprising, then, that there weren’t a whole lot of options for me to choose from. Most of the authors that I recognized wrote books that I was assigned to read during high school. Then there was Hemingway. I had never been assigned one of his novels but I had read his short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” and remembered enjoying puzzling out the subtext. Also, there was substantially more white space in his interview and I thought that I’d be more likely to stay focused reading it.
After reading the expository before the interview, it became clear to me that Hemingway and I have differing perspectives on writing. While he is described as feeling that “writing is a private, lonely occupation with no need for witnesses until the final work is done,” I push my drafts in front of as many noses as possible. While he pushes forward and marks down how many words he writes a day, I write sporadically. Some days, I feel like the words come out too quickly for my fingers to catch up. Some days, the fountain runs dry. Hemingway had somehow found a way to grease the wheels just enough for a little progress every day. Like an exercise routine.
His strategy was simple–he cliffhangered himself every day. He would write up until he got to a point where he knew exactly what would happen next and then he would stop. The next day, the “juices” would come flowing back so that he could start again. This sounds like the kind of thing that works for very disciplined people (like morning people with exercise routines). I would like to be a very disciplined person.
“You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it.”
Hemingway’s dedication to writing has me reconsidering my entire writing process. The truth is, how necessary is the background music? How necessary is the solitude? How necessary is the location? All you truly need is yourself and a way to record your thoughts. Maybe I should let myself be ruthless more often.