Don’t be ‘a writer.’ Be writing.”
It’s happened to you, I’m sure. Soon after you make a new acquaintance, he or she asks you what you do. And as soon as you answer, “I’m a writer,” the next two question usually are, “Oh, what have you written?” and “What are you working on?”
I love talking about books, writing, and my work. Just wind me up and get me started, and I’ll keep going.
But, thanks to Hemingway, I try to resist making it a tell-all fest and gabbing on and on about precisely what I’m working on at the moment. That’s right, Hemingway. As an ex-pat, he spent many an hour in cafes shooting the breeze with other writers — F. Scott Fitzgerald among them. But he rarely talked about the pages he’d just written or was planning to write because he felt it sapped his creative energy.
Just recently, I came across support for Hemingway’s belief in Dorothea Brande’s great guide, Becoming a Writer. In a section called, “Keep Your Own Counsel,” she observes: “…words are your medium, and effective use of them your profession, but your unconscious self (which is your wishful part) will not care whether the words you use are written down or talked to the world at large. If you are for the moment fortunate enough to have a responsive audience you often suffer for it later. You will have created your story and reaped your reward in approval or shocked disapproval; in either case you will have hit your mark.
“Afterward you will find yourself disinclined to go on with the laborious process of writing that story at full length; unconsciously you will consider it as already done, a twice-told tale… So practice a wise taciturnity. When you have completed a fair first draft, you can, if you like, offer it for criticism and advice; but to talk too early is a grave mistake.”
Wise advice as we all write on!
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