Monday, February 21, 2011

Hemingway Unblocks Writer's Block

I'm taking a course in my MFA program that semester that focuses on nonfiction writing in the 1960's. I'm loving the class (so far we've read Baldwin and Plath and there are a bunch of amazing writers in the coming weeks).

This week we had to read Hemingway's A Movable Feast. The book is about his time writing in Paris. It's full of anecdotes (including chapters with F Scott Fitzgerald!) and writing advice. I love hearing about Hemingway's life, especially after I learned so much about him on my trip to Key West two years ago.

Hemingway talks about the process of sitting down and writing and sometimes not knowing how to start. I'm sure we have all had those days. Those moments of writer's block where we just can't get anything out. He shares an ingenious plan that makes perfect sense to me.

Hemingway writes, "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."

Uhm...hello...best advice ever. Seriously. It makes perfect sense. Stop writing when you know what you're going to write next. I totally understand that and am going to make it a point to start practicing that habit.

What do you think? Would it work for you? Do you have any other good advice for those moments of writer's block?

12 comments:

Kristan said...

My professor Hilary Masters always used to give us this advice. I think it's great, although I can't say I *always* follow it. (Mostly I just go until I can't go anymore, and then I think about how to continue until I figure it out.)

Btw, I went to Key West (unexpectedly... we were supposed to go Grand Cayman but someone on the cruise got sick and needed a hospital) but I didn't realize Hemingway's house was there until too late! Guess I have an excuse to go back. ;)

Carrie said...

Great post. I've never read this book but I may have to add it to my list of books to read. Thanks for writing about it.

Alexis said...

That's really good advice ^.^ thanks for sharing!

Kari Marie said...

This great advice. I will occasionally get so excited that I'll write everything in my head and then sit for days waiting to figure out what happens next. Hemingway = genius.

Zan Marie said...

Great post! Oh to be in Key West... ; ) I'm following you now, fellow crusader.

Happily Cheesy said...

Lol. I wish I could say that would work, but with my life...it would NEVER happen! I always come back after my brain has crunched a new plot point. When you keep a running 19 stories it's not hard to have SOMETHING to say about at least one at all times.

Jen Daiker said...

I suppose if I were in the right frame of mind I would try anything to cure writers block.

How are submissions going? It's been awhile since I've visited but I'm still curious!

Okie said...

What a fun trip and what a cool piece of advice. While I like the advice, I always tend/want to keep going until I hit a block...once I figure out what's going to happen next, I feel compelled to write it down at that moment. Thus I essentially "write myself out" during a writing session...or at least that's my preference if I have the time.

Rachael Harrie said...

"Stop writing when you know what you're going to write next" - wow, I've never heard that before, and it's so true!!! I'm off to apply that to my WIP straight away ;)

Hope you're enjoying the Crusade so far :)

Hugs,

Rach

Bethany Mason said...

The problem I have with this theory is that I know what is going to happen next...until I open the document. And then it's like my brain turns off and won't let me access the answers it needs to write!

Aleeza said...

i cant claim to be a fan of hemingway, cause ive only read one book and couldnt even finish it. but i like this advice of his, cause i tend to suck myself dry of words and ideas during inspiration strikes and then spend days wondering what'll happen next.
im kind of with bethany, too--sometimes i know what'll happen, but opening the freaking document and getting down to write it out can be so daunting. still, great advice. :)

scarves said...

Wish all of the network of friends have a new start .

hope you have a great 2011. Thanks for the link, sweetie!
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