Why Hemingway Ate His Gun
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Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
by Jack H. Schick
I feel great! I have a big smile on my face. I have a tremendous urge to write this morning. I have no essay or story in mind. I just feel like typing. A situation like that seldom occurs. I usually think about a topic for a while, until an idea and a theme forms in my mind. Then I start thinking about structure, how to say it to make it interesting and make it work. After that process is complete is when I finally get the urge to sit down and write, usually. I almost never simply start typing and see where it goes.
Uh-oh! I just had a sharp panicky sensation swell up within me. I realized that I’m writing a piece of gibberish. That’s something I’m usually very careful to try to avoid. Essays are supposed to have structure and purpose. I usually work hard to make them fit the form and flow smoothly. This one so far does not. I feel like I’m not doing my job, like I’m wasting my energy and the reader’s time.
I now have an urge to stop typing, to go back and look at the introductory paragraphs and re-build and re-write. I have an impulsion to try to give it direction, to give it a topic sentence and a solid introduction. I won’t, though. I’ll resist no mater what the consequences are. This is just a finger exercise; and, to a point I guess, a mental exercise. I’m just satisfying a previous urge, letting off energy. I have to face that fact. This is not an essay or an article.
As I said, this is unusual for me. I usually have to search and search for some tidbit, for some obscure fact or event that sparks an interest in me. Then, I develop an excitement and have to write about it. Sometimes I notice an ironic circumstance (and I do appreciate irony), that makes me smile. Then I get an urge to share the experience. This time there is nothing, no compulsion. There is just a keyboard and a blank document screen in front of me. It draws me like flies are drawn to a pile of dog poop in the backyard.
I use the analogy of a pile of dog poop, because that’s basically what this ‘piece’ is. So far, I’ve made no effort to ‘say something,’ to attract a reader’s attention, to expose some truth, to develop a character, to describe some setting, to establish some plot, to persuade anybody of anything, to create an imaginative picture, to explore a conflict. Actually this all is a waste and should be deleted. It’s a fraud, a sham.
Now I feel ashamed, guilty and inadequate. Who should I expect to be interested in reading something like this? And, when I feel guilt, like now, I expand that question. Why should I expect anyone to be interested in reading even the most deeply thought out, perfectly structured and developed essay I’ve ever written? What makes me think that what I have to say, even when I really think I do have something to say, has any value or is in anyway important—to anyone?
Sure, it’s important to me. I love to hear myself talk. I love to read my own material. Sometimes I think I’ve found some great universal truth and it’s my duty to tell the world. Sometimes, I laugh like hell at something I wrote that is supposed to be funny. Sometimes I muse and ponder the poignancy, irony, or social value of the things I’ve written. Sometimes I sigh with satisfaction and pat myself on the back when an essay flows easily and pulses with energy. Boy, what a jerk, what an egoist I am. No wonder so many people think I’m an ass. I truly am one.
I don’t feel so great anymore. My smile is gone. Instead, I’m now totally depressed. I’ve certainly managed to blow off all of that positive energy I had a few minutes ago. I’ve certainly been able to purge myself of the urge to write something. It might be difficult to ever write anything again, now that I see the truth. I’ve exposed my pathetic, ego-centric, despicable self to myself; stripped off the veil, the rosy glasses. I’ve looked into the mirror and seen myself for the idiotic, jerk I truly am. The truth hurts, baby. It humbles and humiliates.
But, maybe that’s what writing is all about. Maybe that’s what it’s supposed to do to the writer--rip his guts out by exposing to him truth. Maybe the twisting emotions I feel while writing, while thinking about writing, while thinking about me doing the writing, makes me better and stronger. Maybe a writer must actually walk through the fire and the ice, be burned and frozen himself, before he can properly describe heat and cold. Maybe all this is good for me, but, then again, maybe that’s why Hemingway ate his gun.
This Article has been viewed 645 times. (Not updated in real-time.)Top-level comments on this article: (3 total)
I've just learned what you do in your writing. You will look for hard vocabularies if you think carefully. I think it will make your writing easier if you write as you wrote this article.I dont look for vocabulary. My education is in English.
A well structured essay, article, poem, novel, requires hard thinking.Ok. After all this article had really less unknown vocabulary for me. maybe I am learning English language as well :)English is a useful language that has a very large vocabulary. There are many many words that have similar meanaings. Subtle shades of difference make one word perfect for situation and others siilly. Sometimes synonyms are used to avoid repetitiveness in the prose.An example in your first statement: "...what you DO in your writing." Synonyms are (each with a subtle difference): carry out, engage in, discharge (action); be good enough for, be adequate, avail, suffice (good, sufficency, purpose); be of use, be useful, serve (use). You could say 'accomplish' rather than 'do.' But then it could mean: achieve, fulfill, attain, effect, produce..........
If struggle, ennui and writer's block are at all lethal to writers, then, I am already a hundred fold times dead.
If only I could freely associate and relax with words, as you bravely did here, to reveal the inner writing endeavor and process....
PaulThanks for readign and commenting--yes, sometimes it flows smoothly
Fascinating . . . ambling through a maze . . . love the thought process . . . flowing like a river . . . finding its own level. Very smooth. Also quietly reaffirming some of my thoughts and feelings. What's not to love? Thanks for the read!Thanks for reading and commenting