When you read a good piece of writing and you want to keep it close to your eyes or simply don’t want to lose track of it, maybe a good thing to do is also (maybe) the simplest thing to do: write something down about it, highlit it, staple a post-it on it ‘till you’ve got it swallowed down. [And when you think it’s really gold, please share it]
As I was reading some notes on some very touching (and useful) Hemingway’s advice on writing, just got caught with stuff to think for a good deal of days ahead. It definitely deserves a highlight. You might know how to be clear and concise, you might know how to make the good questions to get a good story. But that’s never enough (and I don’t see a reason why it should be) and you might start worrying that being good enough is not good enough. You want your voice to stand out from the crowd, you want to do something meaningful, you want people to see how refined your skill is, how long and how hard it took you to craft it. And how you still painstakingly work on it. And then you might get it a little wrong, lose balance and become what in this excerpt Hemingway qualified as an owl. “A writer who appreciates the seriousness of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally educated, cultured or well-bred is merely a popinjay”. And become a lover of the epic. Of the hazy, complicated, mistifying words in complicated structures of an epic. And then a good thing to remember is that
“All bad writers are in love with the epic”.
Not the epic as the epic itself, but the grandeur of the thing, the necessity of building imaginary castles to adorn your art. And it makes a lot of sense from this what he said. And what he wrote. He could portray the epic without falling bewitched by it. Maybe he needed not to be in love with it in order to get us this sense of epic in his writing. Something to bear in mind.
And another thing, maybe as important as keeping your feet on the ground is, of course, showing up for the work. That sieves job from hobby. Deadlines in this sense are a great reminder of what’s the difference from one to another, but the good thing is not always to rely on them. Ideas live better when they have space to breathe and don’t have to be smashed or trimmed by tight deadlines. And you can usually gild them by powdering a little with some gold you find along the way, learning from who’s been there. But the best thing is to keep them moving. After all, ideas have a life by themselves and like to walk, run and fly over rooftops.