I went to the library today and browsed the “How to Write a ___” books before it occurred to me: I know how to write. I need to learn to work. Discipline is needed. I need to become my own taskmaster, and stop finding excuses to do anything else but the thing I want to do.
I was reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast this weekend. It’s an old favorite with a lot of juicy stories about artists and writers living in Paris in the twenties. But it also provided a window into how Hemingway worked. He didn’t merely sit in cafes, drink himself into oblivion, and then go home and write. He wrote all day, often in his studio apartment until his creative juices were almost — but not quite — completely spent. Then and only then would he drink himself into oblivion. He claimed the drinking kept him from thinking about the writing that lay ahead. The booze kept him focused on the present.
I’d like to have that kind of focus and discipline. It’s what I need. To sit and write, edit each draft, get the work into a state that feels satisfactory, and then stop myself. Put the writing down and do something else. Maybe not heavy drinking. We all know how that worked out for Hemingway.
It’s the exact opposite of what I do, which is to:
- Think about the writing for many hours while doing anything but write.
- Remind myself that I’m a delusional idiot who doesn’t have what it takes to write a brochure for compression stockings, nevermind a story that people want to hear.
- Finally sit down to write, and then freeze in terror.
Stuck. Where is my Paris? I can’t imagine it’s easy to be a starving artist in Paris these days. Where do the expats go? Is it warm there? Do they have wi-fi?
Please don’t tell me it’s Detroit.