I begin with Ernest Hemingway. I know many have difficulty with Hemingway, and I’ve no quarrel with those who do, but part of why I read is to learn to become a better writer. If you can’t learn to be a better writer from Hemingway, then you’re not paying attention.
Nowhere is this more true than with the subject of this post. Published in 1960, A Moveable Feast is a series of non-fiction essays in which Hemingway recalls his time spent in Paris between 1921 and 1926. And it is, in a word, beautiful.
This is not the literary giant who dominated the early half of the 20th century; this is a journalist who barely made his rent but nevertheless managed to rub elbows with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and other notables of the literary world. A Moveable Feast is filled with anecdotes about such figures. For instance—according to Hemingway—Ms. Stein did not in fact coin the phrase, “The Lost Generation,” but rather stole it from a mechanic who fixed her car.
But where the book has the greatest value to an indie author like me is that it clearly shows Hemingway’s approach to his craft. In A Moveable Feast, he offers up his own approach to writing, and more than five decades later his advice still rings true:
- “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
- “…I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it…”
- “I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”