For the longest time, I had problems with writing. I would start writing and keep writing and writing until I absolutely could not think of anything else to write. The next day, I would sit down to write again and I still had nothing to write. I would just sit there staring at what I had already written and would have no clue how to continue.
Ernest Hemingway, when confronted with the same issue, came up with a brilliant solution: Just stop while you still have ideas in you.
In an interview in Paris Review magazine, Ernest said,
You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try
to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.
I have tried this again and again and have found that it brings about tremendous results. As I am walking about during the time between writing, one of the things sitting in my mind is the group of ideas that I did not elect to write.
What is amazing to me is that instead of just sitting in my mind gathering dust, the ideas grow — as though they are a beautiful flower that starts as a tiny little plant but explodes with radiant bursts of energy as soon as it is given time and space to develop.
A second technique that I have used to somewhat lesser success is that of rewriting. In the same interview, Hemingway states that he rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before he was satisfied with it.
It almost makes one want to pick up a manual typewriter at a second hand store just to give it a go. I guess it’s time to clean my old Dora.
Thanks for sharing some good writing secrets, Gordon!
My pleasure, David! 🙂