Heart of a Writer

“A writer, if he is any good, does not describe. He invents or makes out of knowledge personal and impersonal and sometimes he seems to have unexplained knowledge which could come from forgotten racial or family experience… If you describe someone, it is flat, as a photograph is, and from my standpoint a failure. If you make him up from what you know, there should be all the dimensions.”

So sayeth Ernest Hemingway.

A fledgling writer, I am but I hesitate to even use the word writer since it feels like a title to be earned. But what is there below that? A dawdler, a doodler, a thinker without following through-er?

I don’t brag about my creations; trust me, much of it is not worth bragging about, and I feel a sort of vague disgust when people do. Therein I think, lies my biggest obstacle; judging vs. understanding. Since coming into awareness, and the belief that we are all created equal, having the capacity for so much love, I balk at labeling people.

There was a guy standing on the edge of a very busy road. He was thin, wearing thick glasses, droopy clothing, holding a single grocery bag, waiting for a break in the traffic to be able to cross. I saw him for three seconds, tops, and in that time the first thought that came to mind was that he must be poor. His lips were moving so he must be slightly off-kilter to be talking to himself, and as he stood there he shuffled his feet alternately. I drove by with those first impressions. The image ruminated, and the things that weren’t so obvious came into view; he had been smiling with an open face, the glasses might have been a different prescription than he needed because his mouth was open and his teeth were plainly visible as he strained to see clearly. Most of all, he looked happy. Just happy with who he was, where he was and what he was doing, and even where he was headed to, maybe.

There was a woman behind me at the drugstore. She was talking to a young man, who I assumed was her son. She was brusque, and bullish, striking down everything he said with a harsh “Nope.” It seemed that her son hadn’t received some money that he was owed, and she was sure that if the funds did come through, it wouldn’t be the full amount, or the person owing would renege on the whole thing. She was quite successful in degrading both her son and the unknown person in public. Finally, she grudgingly agreed to lend her son the money (which, no doubt, he would be hounded to pay back very soon) and made her way to the ATM at the front of the store. In order to get there, she had to walk by me. She addressed the floor with her “excuse me” and as she shoved by, I had the clearest vision of the kind of person she was. At a gathering perhaps, she would be the one listening to, sharing and taking in all the gossip, storing it away, to be reproduced some other time when it would serve a juicy purpose. She would be the one who knew more than you, and would verbally stamp all over any opinion that differed from hers. She ate fast food. She smoked. She judged with a flick of her eyes and could see nothing of a stranger beyond the surface.

What a strange position for me to be in. With a writer’s mind, I see the characters as they are, in an environment of my choosing, playing out scenes and conversations as I imagine would befit their personalities. Then the Buddha mind speaks up and gently reminds me that it is unkind to judge people; to pigeonhole.

I have struggled with this notion for a while: when you receive inspiration from what is around you, what has happened to you, what you have experienced, who you see, how they behave, how do you vanquish the idea of being judgmental to get down to the creative nitty gritty?

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”

And right there, it’s quite simple.

The guy crossing the road, the woman in the drugstore; no matter where I put them, they gotta have roots. So that instead of painting a vapid picture, I create a statue with parts and pieces pulled from many memories, an outline that I can fill in with what’s in my mind. Judgment is eliminated and in its place, an open heart and mind, delving into what is already known.

But still, you won’t read about what I’m working on, why I’ve been away, have you missed my writing, and oh, this will be great for my next book. Because I’m not trying to elicit your comments or your personal strokes. That’s just the ego talking, so write like it’s your soul on the page and keep your torment to yourself.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

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One thought on “Heart of a Writer

  1. I agree; it’s often hard to call oneself a writer when we compare ourselves to the likes of Hemingway. I have a literary blog, so I often ponder the idea of what it takes to be a writer. You make some great points in this piece. Keep writing and follow your dreams!

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