ernest hemingway

Reasons to Hire a Writer #2: A Writer Remembers

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"The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." -Ernest Hemingway Photo by flickr user Denny Nkemontoh, under CC license.
“The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”
-Ernest Hemingway

Emerson said ” ‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book.” Two readers pick up the same volume. One reads words, receives a story, and is entertained. The other –a writer– also reads the words, but in the context of the thousands of other books s/he has read. In his mind each setting, each character, each way of writing is filed in a mental list, becoming in essence a living database of style and context.

The writer also receives a story, but the writer knows stories. The story, is it wordy? Does it say enough? Is it full of gaps: barriers to comprehension? Does it inform and impress enough to be authoritative; to have what some call ‘the ring of truth?’

The writer is also entertained, but as this is his trade and he is a list-making analyzer, his standards will be high. In business and technical writing we replace ‘entertain’ with ‘inform,’ but just as the words used in fiction and business are identical the analytical tools of the writer transform seamlessly to commercial communications.

The writer you hire has a mind just like yours. Whereas yours might be swarming with lines of unwritten code or crowded with market & performance data in aid of your strategic and operational decision-making, the writer’s mind is stacked deep with context, driven by a mania for clarity, and made to adapt.

This last provides perhaps the most value in the business world. A writer is a reader, and by nature an editor. S/he is by training and instinct accustomed to holding hundreds of conceptual lines in mind at once. As Hemingway observed early in his career writing for Cooperative Commonwealth (a former weekly business magazine in Chicago), when presented with business tasks the writer simply makes room in his mind for work and art together. In this s/he is supremely adaptive both to circumstances and information, an inherent skill that translates perfectly into a MARCOM gatekeeper and editor, a social media manager, or communications project manager.

The writer brings a wealth of cultural perspective to discussions about strategy and deep knowledge to conversations about messaging in the act of putting his considerable talents at the disposal of his employer. No matter the message, no matter the audience, a writer has the tools organizations need to bridge critical gaps in messaging, strategy, and talent.


Advice for writers from Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway by Yousuf Karsh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve recently begun a work of long fiction: exponentially longer than I’ve ever maintained one story line. There have been times I’ve written 15,000 words in a weekend, and other times I’ve written nothing for days on end. My manuscript is full of little electronic post-it notes reading “Continuation Point.”

Looking for a different quote from Ernest Hemingway I stumbled upon this, from an October 1935 article in Esquire Magazine called “Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter.” I realized instantly the cause of the dopey little electronic post-its, and having internalized this message find my daily production is seldom so explosively huge, but is far more regular. YC refers to Hemingway, as ‘Your Correspondent.’ Mice is the nickname of the aforementioned Maestro, a writer friend of Hemingway’s in Cuba. My bold for emphasis.

Mice: How much should you write in a day?

Y.C.: The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Mice: All right.

Y.C.: Always stop when you are going good and donʼt think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on to the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it.

Mice: How can you learn not to worry?

Y.C.: By not thinking about it. As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that.

I realized I already had this capacity via the practice of meditation. The important thing for me going forward is to remember to leave things even just a little unfinished at the end of the day.

Archibald MacLeish – Ars Poetica

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Archibald MacLeish

MacLeish’s expatriate years brought him into contact with Ernest Hemingway and the generación perdue literary community in Paris in the early 20s. Hemingway –not known for kindness to old friends– was unable to land any meaningful punches on the affable, erudite MacLeish.

In this MacLeish implicitly besought poets to transmit whole the very experiences & visualizations that inspired them, not to represent that inspiration somehow. Let the love you feel upon beholding a singularly captivating river stone be the poem, not a retelling of the moment the poet fell in love with the stone. The former brings the reader into the poet’s eye; the latter irrelevant minutia.

Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown –

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind –

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea –

A poem should not mean
But be

-Archibald MacLeish, 1925