Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I talked about Hemingway’s “one true sentence” in my last blog. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all week long, just write one true sentence after the other. If I look at the whole novel, I feel utterly daunted. If I go sentence by sentence, I know I’ll eventually get there (after all, I remind myself, I have completed novels before – no reason for this to be any different.)
In his book A Moveable Feast, Hemingway also gave me something else to think about. It’s to do with his writing process. It’s probably easiest to quote straight from the book:
“When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. . .  It was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
What a lovely image. And maybe quite liberating to let go of the story when you are not actively writing. I tend to mull over plots and think about characters all the time. Am I draining my well and not allowing it time to refill without my interference? Would I be better off reading a good book instead of worrying about my story?
Stephen King talks about the “boys in the basement”, working away while you are elsewhere.
Sometimes when I finally get to my desk, I feel like I’ve been helping those boys in the basement for hours. If I can train myself to let the story percolate on its own, will I sit down for my writing time refreshed and enthusiastic, raring to go? It’s worth trying.

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