Tag Archives: Hemingway

The First Step to Overcoming Literism is to Seek Help

English: "Only were to be seen the policemen, flashing their dark lanterns into doorways and alleys" Photograph first published in: Jack London, The People of the Abyss, Macmillan, New York, 1903, 319 p., facing page 115. [1]
Giving into the evil of write has long been acknowledged as a path to self destruction. Jack London photograph, 1902. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Only_were_to_be_seen_the_policemen,_flashing_their_dark_lanterns_into_doorways_and_alleys.jpg
His clothes fit for 30 years, and then they did not. Nothing fit.

The words popped into my head, the spear tip of a story piercing right through the fog and into my conscious mind. I could feel the whole shaft in that first prick of the sharp words. I could sense a story, I could almost touch the whole thing, complete.

For a moment it felt good. Like crack.

Then the alarms went off. Oh shit. This is how it starts, the literary thinking.

In a moment, I’ll find myself rushing off to find paper and pen. I’ll be curled up in some dirty, dark alley, a month later, scribbling, smiling, and talking to myself.

Begging pencils from strangers.

I have to stop it now. I must resist.

Let it go. Do other things, I told myself.

I went onto Facebook. The status box asked “What are you thinking?” And what I thought is: I could write a a few lines in there, or even a page, a short story. Is there a Facebook word limit? I could probably cram 80,000 words right in there. Once I start, it’ll be easy, like falling off a cliff, but believing you are flying.

No, no, you don’t. I closed the browser, and brushed by Microsoft Word as quickly as I could before powering down my laptop.

I took a walk. Words followed my every step, lurking just behind me in my subconscious. I felt a theme, ever so gently touch my shoulders. I walked faster, but the words quickened, too, more and more of them, and ideas, right behind me. I felt a little high, a little feverish.

I thought about getting a drink to drown the words out. Then I remembered Hemingway’s warning: Write drunk, edit sober. There are words in drink, he had tried to warn us; alcohol gives no quarter.

I knew I was on the very edge of falling into writing.

What I needed was some literary methadone.

I found Jill, who leads my writing support group, at Starbucks. Jill is my sponsor.

“Tell me about your story,” she said.

I did.

“And your themes,” she added, “What about the climax, and turning points?”

I told her everything. I released the ghost of a story right out of my mouth. I gave the virus to her, and she took it all, selflessly.

And then I was OK. The story was gone.

I went back home, never more thankful for belonging to a writing group.

I went to sleep.  I did not dream.

Earnest Hemingway Did Not Air-Pop His Corn

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You’ve come home from whatever it is that you do for money while pretending not to be a writer.  Now there is that fear: If I find myself alone, I may be obliged to write.

Never fear.  This is why this blog exists: to show you that, even when the whole universe favors you writing, there are still ways to avoid it.

Let’s have a little popcorn snack.  Get some oil smoking and throw some dead corn seed right in there.

That Air Popper someone gave you and your third ex-wife for a wedding present – the one thing she let you have when she kicked you out?  Oh please, the only place to use it is in a story as an ironic murder weapon.  In real life, you cannot feed a soul on hot air.

But I see you there at the stove – you threw the popcorn into the smoking oil then looked for the right lid as kernels started exploding.  You were brave, you told yourself, for looking for the lid only after you’d thrown the kernels in.  Your life needs a GoPro.

You get the whole greasy mess into a bowl, and your fingers follow – ravenous fingers that toss the hot crunchy, oiled and salted mini clouds into your mouth with abandon.  The glory of the popcorn!

But what seemed so promising falls into your gut as a quagmire of dead greasy corn seeds, and the guilty grease won’t wipe off your fingers. Not completely.

There is no way to write great literature with greasy fingers.

Now all that’s left to do is call your third ex-wife, a dying bottle of Jack Daniels in hand, and beg like the humiliated almost writer you almost were.

At least you did not use the Air Popper.  This time.