Ernest Hemingway has been a close confidant ever since college. I have fond memories of being in Paris with him while the rain pattered against my attic window. (Yes, dear readers, I lived in an attic during grad school at the University of Michigan. Room and board were free while I kept the family's house clean and their young daughter company. Oh yes, and walked the dog at lunchtime.)
Some of his books are heartbreakingly memorable, like A Moveable Feast, The Old Man And the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Others, like Islands in the Stream, wander around until you give up in disgust.
I've learned a lot from this hard-living (and loving) man, including:
*Get to the point. At his best, he's crisp, firm and concise. At his worst, he sounds like a dirty old man or a drunk. Or both.
*Don't take yourself so seriously. Others did. In fact, he did too, later in life. (I suspect he actually started to believe the sycophants and hangers-on.) But the vintage Hemingway was always looking around with open eyes...including at himself.
*Travel as much as you can. Even if it means doing it in third-class railways (ever sit up all night on Amtrak?) or skimping on clothes to do so. The experience will stay with you all your life...and affect your work for the good.
*Read as much as you can. Hemingway always had a book (or two, or three) going. His first wife Hadley remembered once smooching with the great Hem -- only to find that he was reading a book behind her back!
*Discipline yourself. Writing was a regular part of his schedule. (Like Lewis Carroll and Thomas Wolfe, he liked to do it standing up! Certainly better for the stomach and leg muscles.) Sure, he goofed around a lot, and did far more than his share of drinking. But the words still got produced, day after day. (Stephen King is also good at this sort of thing. He reads a lot, too.)
*Do it with gusto. Whatever he did -- good or bad -- he went into it full-bore. Not a bad way to live.
Ernie in 1939 -- courtesy of Wikipedia. For a full bibliography, look here.)
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