Friday, February 22, 2008

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

Of all the authors my perv literature prof crammed down my throat, the one I liked the most was Ernest Hemingway. I’m not really a fan but I like his writing. Very much. Yeah, I know, he’s sort of a media whore and a jerk who ate the muzzle of a shotgun but no one’s perfect.

Anywho, being the library of my family, my brother asked me for a copy of A Farewell to Arms (for school stuff) and I told him, of course, I have it. It’s my fave Hemingway: adventure, drama and glorious star-crossed lovers alongside war (a plot I can’t get enough of). After about 5 minutes of looking for AFTA I was getting mad because I couldn’t find it... then I remembered I gave it to someone. Oh, fuck. I went online to see if some generous criminal is giving away Hemingway ebooks; no such luck (selfish bastards, hmph!). Instead, I stumbled upon this list of writing wisdom gleaned from Hemingway on the Confident Writing website:

1 Start with the simplest things
2 Boil it down
3 Know what to leave out
4 Write the tip of the ice-berg, leave the rest under the water
5 Watch what happens today
6 Write what you see
7 Listen completely
8 Write when there is something you know, and not before
9 Look at words as if seeing them for the first time
10 Use the most conventional punctuation you can
11 Ditch the dictionary
12 Distrust adjectives
13 Learn to write a simple declarative sentence
14 Tell a story in six words
15 Write poetry into prose
16 Read everything so you know what you need to beat
17 Don’t try to beat Shakespeare
18 Accept that writing is something you can never do as well as it can be done
19 Go fishing in summer
20 Don’t drink when you’re writing
21 Finish what you start
22 Don’t worry. You’ve written before and you will write again
23 Forget posterity. Think only of writing truly
24 Write as well as you can with no eye on the market
25 Write clearly—and people will know if you are being true
26 Just write the truest sentence that you know
27 Remember that nobody really knows or understands the secret

I think one of the reasons we like these lists is not that we are looking to absorb all the advice—which probably wouldn’t be possible, or advisable—but because we subconsciously scan it, filter it, to find the one piece of advice we need right now.

Any of these tips/suggestions you can identify with? And *ahem* anyone who has an ebook of AFTA? (Just kidding; just got a new copy. :P)


7 comment(s):

Anonymous Gabrielle said...

I have to do a major work for one of my subjects in the form of a short story. I wrote my first draft and it was the crappiest thing I have ever read let alone written. I'm starting again with a whole new story and these tips look really good. I can't identify with any since I don't consider myself a writer and haven't done much experimenting, but I think I will start.

Thanks Harlot =)

2/22/2008 05:45:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Gabrielle, glad i could help a bit. :D I don't fancy myself a writer but i love these gems of writing advice. Actually i think some of them you can relate to other things in your life, not just on writing. :)

Goodluck on your paper!

2/22/2008 05:58:00 AM  

Blogger Petra said...

I read Hemingway in high school. Personally I think his strength lies on his short stories and not on his novels.

Great tips. I hate hate authors who are so full of themselves and like to hear themselves talk and talk. You know the type: those who like to pepper books with flowery words just to sound very intellectual. Bahh!

2/22/2008 09:23:00 AM  

Blogger Midas said...

I like Hemingway. He's like a model's diet in terms of food. No unnecessary fats around his work.

2/22/2008 04:15:00 PM  

Blogger Midas said...

I got something for you here. Because you guys truly are!

2/22/2008 04:15:00 PM  

Anonymous karamia said...

I love Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises has two of my favorite characters ever- Jake and Brett. What a sad story. And I like the book because everyone in it is a drunk. LOL.
What a great list. Everyone should get that in a writing class. It's hard to pare down what you are writing to the essentials.
I agree that the list can be applied to many areas of life.

2/22/2008 08:04:00 PM  

Blogger Jolie said...

I have an e-book of Farewell to Arms... :P

Great list. Words of wisdom not only for writers but for many of us as well.

2/22/2008 11:29:00 PM