It’s the 1920s; as America roared with jazz, Paris, France was gifted with painters, sculptors, composers, and writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, who wrote his memoir, A Moveable Feast, published forty-four years later.
I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and found it to be a very enlightening experience, as a writer and a reader of good writing. He wrote the book to give a perspective on his writing process but also gave attention to the setting and people around him, and how this influenced his writing. After reading much of Hemingway’s fiction, such as For Whom the Bell Tolls and Old Man and the Sea, I did not know what to expect to learn from his memoir. I knew he had been in World War I as an ambulance driver(originally), survived diabetes and skin cancer, he checked out Scott Fitzgerald’s penis in a bathroom to let him know it was of normal size(oh, this also was happening in Paris), and he had a house in Key West that was apparently once a urinal in a bar. What else would I learn from his memoir?
Concerning A Moveable Feast, Hemingway says, “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact” (Hemingway). I guess a writer can tweak(if that is the right word) his/her life within a memoir. If I said I secretly lived a life like Indiana Jones, exploring the world for artifacts and narrowly escaping attacks from villains, snakes, and boulders…, would probably be viewed as fiction. I presume the person who experiences, firsthand, the “reality” written is the only one who knows what is created from imagination and what is reality.
“When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before stopped” (Hemingway)
I think of this like keeping my passport locked away at home instead of in my wallet to not lose it on an outing -I have to keep my story locked away so I dont lose it during my daily and nightly routines. Furthermore, I can see how easy it could be to unintentionally imitate a story or a style of writing when writing after reading. After reading Cormack McCarthy’s The Road, I waited a few days before writing since his style and story had such an influence on me as a writer. I did not want to try imitating it. I read different genres and different types of writing styles; as a result, my own writing style and voice developed(and somewhat a work in progress with each story I write) For me, this process is a fraction due to imagination and a fraction of consistent practice, reading, and writing a variety of fiction and nonfiction. I think it is important to set the story aside and get out of that perspective until returning to it, so I dont I lose it. Now, thinking about it the other way around, reading after writing, it seems a sure way to leave the realm that is the story to become immersed in someone else’s story.
“I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always stop when there was still something here in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
Keep it secured in the realm the person writes in, else risk losing it, and stop where the story is hot. Sleep on it. This will leave room for more creativity when the writer returns to her/his story. I would not conclude on a story or a chapter but stop when the tension and stakes are high. There is a challenge with this. Part of me would want to finish writing an exciting scene, afraid I’d lose that thing when I return to write. But as Hemingway seems to be stressing, leaving that special thing, story and not revisiting it till the next writing session is a way not to lose it. Leave it there safe in the realm of a computer, notebook, typewriter….opposed to carrying that idea from the story throughout the day and risk losing it in other ideas and thoughts that surface throughout the day.