Ernest Hemingway is credited with saying: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.“
Poet Laureate Billy Collins writes: “I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.“
Powerful words that evoke profound images.
Okay, so maybe nobody uses a typewriter any more. But that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of these statements. Even despite a movement for authors to revert to the old fashioned pen and paper (because of the connection the writer gets to thoughts and emotions through that action), I’m betting most of us nowadays use a computer.
However, the mental images of “sitting down at a PC to bleed” or “nothing but a skeleton at a Mac Pro” do not evoke the same emotions as beautiful words from gifted writers used to full effect in just the right place. So “typewriter” it is. Words matter, true. But impressions soar.
The two gentlemen cited above (and countless others who gratify us with their literary creations) know (or knew) of the power and pathos conveyed by words used wisely and economically. They bled day after day after day to chose the right terms to express their thoughts and perfect their craft.
I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Collins speak several years ago – a homey and enlightening evening during which he gave examples of choices he made while writing. One instance I vividly recall was his decision to use the Adirondacks as the setting for his poem The Lanyard – even though the actual setting had been the Catskills. The word “Adirondacks” was more musical than “Catskills” he said. Try reading that poem with the substitution…he’s right.
Yesterday I outlined the plot of the last book in my Embracing the Elephant series. Today, my search for the right words begins. Today I will bleed in an attempt to emulate those whose work inspires me with their effect, humbles me with their simple grandeur, moves me with their grace.
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