I found myself at home way past library hours without a book. For me this is serious since, without one, I’m lost.
What’s a thin girl to do at 9:30 at night except turn to her own modest library for a quick fix.
Way on the top shelf where I keep classics and coffee table books (haven’t a coffee table), I spot my trusty and oh so dusty Hemingway collection that’s been up there for a good twenty years.
I started to read him when I began my bibliophilic journey way back when. Bibliophilic…how’s that for a word? It’s the adjective off the noun bibliophile meaning a person who collects or has a great love of books.
That’s me, alright. They’re my great love with strappy sandals a close second.
I reach for A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s collection of essays, or sketches as he called them, of his early life in Paris (1921-1926) published posthumously in 1961. It’s one of my most favorite books, a fact I’d long forgotten.
It was also the perfect book for me to read right now.
He writes about writing…the flow of it, when it doesn’t come…a good day on the page and a forlorn one.
I’ve been having a rough time in my own creative life lately allowing my many problems to peck away at my art that, in my opinion, hasn’t been flourishing.
When I read Ernest, one of the greatest authors of our time, had similar issues I feel less alone and hopeful that this too shall pass.
In an essay called Miss Stein Instructs (as in Gertrude Stein) he writes…It was wonderful to walk down the long flight of stairs knowing that I’d had good luck working. I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.
But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges (mandarines he brought for lunch) into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made…
This is where he spoke loudest to me.
I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.
He reminded me it’s natural to have creative setbacks. Also to give yourself and your art an occasional breather to replenish and restore.
His brevity, the cleanness of his prose prompts me to remember less is more…to cut those words one doesn’t need.
Shape, slice, streamline your sentences so the reader can sail, unencumbered, onto the page.
My intention was to read an essay or two till I fell asleep, but ended up reading half of them, completing the rest the next day.
It was as if I took a crash course in artistry remembering what’s important and what isn’t. It’s vital to do what you love, but not loathe your work if it’s coming slowly…have patience with your mind that might need more of a jump start than usual. Listen, observe, revel in your solitude because that’s when your thoughts commingle one by one, filed away in memory.