After three years of intense focus on therapy and personal growth, I'm finally hitting the keys again and will be jumping into NaNoWriMo on November 1st, 2016. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday 17 March 2014

A MOVABLE FEAST - Ernest Hemingway

Okay, so I’ve been neglecting this blog for a bit and focusing my attentions on other projects, which was wrong and I’m sorry.

Things have been pretty intense for me over the past while (you can read more about that at and I have had trouble making myself sit down to write.  In fact, I have barely been writing at all (even my other projects are suffering).  This thing that I love to do so much, I have just been avoiding.  I guess we all go through periods like this, but I think I have been mildly self-sabotaging.  I focused on getting my writing going last year and it started to succeed, so what do I do, I stop.  Typical me.  I’m trying to move past that.

Anyhoo, that’s not the point of this post, but it is a bit of an explanation.  The point is: I’m back.  And I just finished reading A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.  This is a great place at which to jump back in because Hemingway is my FAVOURITE authour.  I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but I realize now that I have failed to actually write about Hemingway and his influences on my writing in any real way in this blog.  Crazy pants!

A Movable Feast is Hemingway’s account of his early years in Paris living in poverty with his first wife Hadley and the various artists with which he would associate (you may have heard of a few: Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound… and a few others – really, just a bunch of nobodys – ha!).  It is an incredible glimpse into what life was like for these incredible icons in literature (“icons” isn’t the right word and according to Hemingway, I should keep searching until I find the mot juste, but for the sake of expediency, I’m going with it) before they were icons.  Hemingway worked on this novel for decades and it was his first book to be published posthumously.

Like all works of Hemingway, A Movable Feast leaves you speechless and feeling like you’ve been punched in heart.  It makes you yearn to be part of that generation in that place and time.  It inspires a feeling of artists on the cusp of greatness seeking an idea that is just beyond their grasp.  It is magical.  But what is most poignant is that though you wish you could be a part of that time, it draws attention to the fact that at that time, they were just normal people.  Yes, many looked up to and respected each other’s successes, but they were all just beginning (Hemingway has yet to write a novel and F. Scott Fitzgerald was having no success selling The Great Gatsby).  They fostered that idea and made it what it was.  It was not a singular occurrence of being in time.  They made that time what it was by being there.  That means it is replicable.

I’m not saying we all need to move to Paris and become bohemian writers, poets and artists.  I’m saying that if you look, you will find those people around you.  You need to foster the artistic dynamism that you seek.  The idea of Paris in the 20s is temporal – the essence is movable.  This perfect storm of inspiration can strike anywhere.  You just need to be aware.  I was thinking earlier today that I spent a week in Paris a couple years ago hoping to snatch up a bit of the lingering essence of what life was like in Hemingway’s time, but I have found more of that essence in the past week working in Kingston Ontario that I ever did in Paris.  Paris in the 20s was a way of life.  It wasn’t the location.  It was what you were willing to sacrifice for your art and the ability to surround yourself with those of a like philosophy. 

Hemingway also talks about his writing and his process, which to someone who is a super fan, this is the most influential part of the book.  It inspires you to just do it.  He also talks about his struggles when writing: how he would get annoyed when interrupted, how many times he would spend a day writing a single paragraph, how he never believed he could actually accomplish the monumental task of writing a novel (‘cause it is a monumental task – and those who are familiar with Hemingway know that his novels aren’t Stephen King 1000 page monsters, they usually sit between 200-300 pages), and how when he lost his way, he would go back and scrap everything until he found the last true sentence he wrote and pick-up from there.  That was his deal – he always wrote what was true.  This does not mean that all his novels were autobiographical or that he had to experience similar events first hand, it just means he always examined his work based on what knew to be true at the time.  And yes, there is an autobiographical element within many of his novels (be it characters or situations), but that’s because those were areas he felt comfortable writing about but the overarching story was fiction.  I feel the same can be said for much of my body of work, which is likely why I relate so closely to Hemingway and his style.

So, I’ve been attempting to adopt what I’m calling Hemingway-isms into my life.  Today, this included buying the fixings for a charcuterie lunch with some nice white wine for dinner (because this will last me a couple days) and that way I’m not spending my money at expensive restaurants while on the road and can save to spend more time on my writing.  (Also, I really like charcuterie!)  It also means: no more TV, committing to my writing, and doing things that help my writing when I’m not actually writing (like taking long walks, reading or putting myself in new situations).  So that’s the new goal.  I’m going to Hemingway myself.  I’ve already found my prose evolving from the descriptive style Hemingway uses.

Here is a little random writing sample from dinner the other night where I applied some of the techniques I’ve been learning (I also hope to complete a novel soon):

It was a time when credit came in the form of small plastic cards and notebooks were more widely known as portable computers than a collection of bound blank pages. Though I still carried the paper book in my purse, my more fervent writing was completed on my SmartPhone, although the auto-correct was still a far cry from what I would define as “smart”.  Typing was speedier than writing by hand, so I could jot notes much faster.

I sat in a sushi bar on the main street in Kingston, reading Hemingway while slowly enjoying dinner before I went into The Grand to call a show.  I sat at the front of the restaurant by the window.  It was late winter in Canada, so the location was verging on cold by the end of the meal, but I enjoyed seeing the people walk past and the sun charting its course through the sky.  I ate my meal deliberately and focused on the flavours it presented.  Before leaving my hotel, I had discovered that my expenditures had gone off the rails in the past few months and I needed to scale back.  The sushi in town was expensive, so this would likely be the last time I had some before returning to Toronto.

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