I just read an article about writers who make themselves physically uncomfortable—perhaps consciously or unconsciously—as a spark to their creative juices. I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about the strange writing habits of some writers and this is a variation on that theme. Below I will give you the cite for the whole article, but here are a couple of interesting points.
Some writers do all of their drafts in the font Courier for the “brutally utilitarian shape of its letters and mono spaced characters marching across the page.” Somehow they feel that when it gets transformed into New Times Roman or Arial in the final version, it looks vastly better and more professional and feels polished compared to the draft.
As you all know if you follow this blog, Hemingway often wrote standing up. This was in part due to pain from the plane crashes and in part, he liked it. However, just as often, I see photos of him working at a large rustic table or at his dining room table.
3 Vladimir Nabakov liked to write in his car, hopefully while parked.
Friedrich Schiller kept a bunch of rotting apples in his desk that filled the room with “eye watering stench.”
Wallace Stevens jotted lines on to scraps of paper while working.
Walter Scott wrote while on horseback. This is puzzling.
Victor Hugo hid all his clothes save for a grey shawl to prevent himself from leaving the home until he was done meeting his writing requirements.
Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day. I would think that would make him get up and down an awful lot.
Truman Capote “couldn’t think unless he was lying down and described himself as a completely horizontal author”.
The theory is that discomfort promotes creativity. I’m not sure.
Do you have any weird habits? I feel lucky if I can sit down in front of a fire with the dogs and just write. A glass of wine is welcome, but optional.
Stafford’s Perry Hotel in Petoskey is hosting the second annual Ernest Hemingway Birthday Celebration.
Hemingway fans will celebrate the beloved Northern Michigan author’s birthday at Stafford’s Perry Hotel in Petoskey during the second annual Ernest Hemingway Birthday Celebration Thursday, July 21.
The evening starts at 6 p.m. and will feature an exclusive screening of the first rough cut of the new television documentary Young Hemingway: Finding His Muse in Northern Michigan by writer-producer George Colburn.
Local singer, Robin Lee Berry, will perform the documentary’s theme song which offers readings from Hemingway’s private letters featured in the documentary. Brian Kozminski, who portrays Hemingway in the documentary’s fishing scenes, will offer commentary on the Northern Michigan fishing scene that captivated Ernest Hemingway.
“Hemingway’s presence is a unique part of Northern Michigan’s history and we are excited to be celebrating him at the Perry Hotel for the secondyear in a row,” says Becky Babcock, marketing director for Stafford’s Hospitality. “His connection to the Perry Hotel makes this the perfect venue for the event, and we look forward to carrying it on as a tradition in the years to come.”
Guests will dine with Hemingway historians and enjoy a five-course Hemingway inspired dinner. The menu (see below) is tantalizing.
Tickets for the Hemingway Birthday Celebration cost $50 per person. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Young Hemingway Documentary Project.
This MyNorth Media video features Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife—a novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife—reading a postcard Hemingway wrote from a hospital bed in Italy.
Until Hemingway was four, his mother dressed him up like a girl to match his sister who was about year younger than he was. His hair was kept long as well.
He hated the name “Ernest.”
In World War I, he was denied entering the military due to very poor eyesight. He was only 17 at the time. He convinced the military to let him in as an ambulance driver.
Hemingway once said of Fitzgerald that, “Scott thought that the rich are different from “you and me.” Hemingway felt they just had more money.
Hemingway had a favorite hamburger recipe that has about 10 ingredients. I tried it once and didn’t find it worth all of those ingredients, which include garlic, green onion, India relish, capers, sage, Spice Island’s Beau Mond Seasoning, Spice Island’s Mairen Powder, one egg beaten, dry red or white wine, one tablespoon of cooking oil. He also had a notation noting soy sauce and tomato could be added at the end.
Hemingway often wrote standing up. He liked it, but after the plane crashes in 1954, it hurt his back less to stand.
Hemingway was married four times and was married to his fourth wife at the time of his death, Mary Welsh Hemingway. Hadley, his first wife, remained a good friend and preferred to be referred to as Mrs. Paul Mowrer as opposed to Hadley Hemingway. Martha Gellhorn, his third wife, never liked being referred to as his third wife and required that interviews not mention him.
Hemingway survived exposure to anthrax, malaria, skin cancer, and pneumonia. He lived with diabetes, two plane crashes, a ruptured kidney, hepatitis, a ruptured spleen, a fracture skull, a crushed vertebrae. As we all know, it was his own hand that ultimately did him in.
For five years his wife Mary insisted that his death was accidental as opposed to a suicide.
Hemingway felt strongly that it was bad luck to talk about how he wrote and the writing process.
Hemingway initially began to wear a beard due to a skin condition that made it painful to shave daily.
1. The 2016 winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award is a young woman name Ottessa Moshfegh. Ms Moshfegh was raised in Newton, MA is being honored for her first novel, “Eileen.” Patrick Hemingway, the son of Ernest Hemingway, presented the award on April 10th in Boston. A $25,000 prize was also awarded to the winner.
2. The Movie “Genius” is coming out with Colin Firth as Hemingway’s Editor Max Perkins. So far the feedback is mixed. The previewers were concerned that the movie lacked passion. If that is the case, I am sorry to hear it. The Perkins/Hemingway relationship is peripheral in the movie. The focus is on Max Perkins’ relationship with Tom Wolfe played by Jude Law. The movie is based on A. Scott Berg’s biography of Perkins.
3. Caterpillar, the maker of tractors and construction equipment, has donated $500,000 to preserve Hemingway’s home in Cuba. The donation was made for the restoration and preservation of documents and artifacts from the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. It will also be used for the construction of the workshop building which will house a laboratory with archived storage facilities near the Hemingway Museum in Havana. Today, the house turned museum preserves a collection of personal objects and documents including books, hunting trophies, guns, letters, photos, a typewriter on which he tended to write standing up, and the yacht Lel Pilar on which he went fishing and sailed around the Caribbean.
More of Hemingway’s letters are being published and they are so revealing and fun. For example, Hemingway is known as being a bit of a bully to his wives yet some of the letters show great sensitivities to Martha Gellhorn and admiration and support for her career as a writer. Please take a look when you have time.
Every writer has his/her own comfort place where writing is easier and better for him/her. Hemingway often wrote standing up especially after the plane accidents but he also enjoyed writing at a big table. His fourth wife, Mary, created a studio for him on the Finca property but he never took to it and preferred to write in the house. He typed but he also did a fair amount long hand and edited long hand, slashing, writing, correcting, modifying.
The above article is about other writers’ habits. To quote the author of the article, Richard Lederer:
Francis Bacon knelt each day before creating his greatest works. Martin Luther could not write unless his dog was lying at his feet, while Ben Jonson needed to hear his cat purring. Marcel Proust sealed out the world by lining the walls of his study with cork. Gertrude Stein and Raymond Carver wrote in their cars, while Edmond Rostand preferred to write in his bathtub.
Emily Dickinson hardly ever left her home and garden. Wallace Stevens composed poetry while walking to and from work each day at a Hartford, Conn., insurance company. Alexander Pope and Jean Racine could not write without first declaiming at the top of their voices. Jack Kerouac began each night of writing by kneeling in prayer and composing by candlelight. Friedrich Schiller started each of his writing sessions by opening the drawer of his desk and breathing in the fumes of the rotten apples he had stashed there.
Some writers have donned and doffed gay apparel. Early in his career, John Cheever wore a business suit as he traveled from his apartment to a room in his basement. Then he hung the suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear. Jessamyn West wrote in bed without getting dressed, as, from time to time, did Eudora Welty, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain and Truman Capote. John McPhee worked in his bathrobe and tied its sash to the arms of his chair to keep him from even thinking about deserting his writing room.
This is me again. So you always knew writers were a weird and rare breed. I don’t have any habits that rival the above. Give me a fire, one of my dogs, and some smooth jazz and I usually can get something down.
Any other strange writing habits out there?
ADDENDUM: An astute reader wrote to say that the above photo is not of Emily Dickenson. So much for Google image search. Here is another and I hope it is correct. Many thanks! C
____Some people may think that the only phrase Hemingway coined was “grace under pressure.” Here are a few more that he either coined or popularized:
In The Sun Also Rises, he notes, “I sorted out the carbons, stamped on a by-line.”
He may not have been the first to use it, but he was the first to get it out there and be popularized.
2.) Spanish words or Italian words thrown into English and used as if we really know what they mean. He used “ciao” in A Farewell to Arms and “cojones” in Death in the Afternoon. There was a lot of Spanish thrown into For Whom the Bell Tolls and he also used a fair amount of Spanish in his regular English discussion.
3.) Moment of truth – Hemingway used this phrase in Death in the Afternoon, his book about bull fighting. The moment of truth occurs when there is a final thrust of the sword from the matador. I hate bullfighting by the way but it was a different time and culture.
4.) Shitfaced – When Hemingway used this in some letters, he meant a person who is beneath contempt. It came into usage as a drunk much later.
5.) Spooked – Hemingway used this in To Have and Have Not as a word for being unnerved as opposed to being alarmed.
An article written by Angela Tung in Wordnic talks about ten terms coined by Hemingway and she has quite a number more with their provenance. The cite is attached for easy reference. I also would add that I believe he coined the phrase “the earth moved” when he wrote the love scene between Robert Jordan and Maria.
The above is a link to the Lillian Ross interview with Hemingway, a sad betrayal of his kindness and friendship to a young writer.
There’s a famous profile of Hemingway that was published on May 13, 1950 in The New Yorker done by a very young journalist at the time named Lillian Ross. Hemingway had helped her with her first big article about Sidney Franklin, the first Jewish-American bull fighter. Hemingway and Lillian Ross became friends and as Hemingway often did, he enjoyed taking this younger, very smart woman under his wing and addressing her as “daughter” and sharing some of the things that he knew with her.
Lillian Ross started working at The New Yorker in 1945 and seemed particularly adept at charming her subjects into saying things they might otherwise not say. She asked to do a profile on Hemingway, who needed the publicity like a hole in the head, but he agreed, hoping to help her career. She shadowed him for months and in particular went with him to New York on a three-day tour. Hemingway viewed it all as a lark.
Here’s where my objectivity stops. As I noted in my opening post three years ago, while I try to be objective about Hemingway and his flaws, which were many, I’m on his side. I’m not neutral. Lillian Ross’ article made him look like a self-involved jerk, almost ignorant. He thought she was his friend.
In that article are statements by Hemingway such as “Book is like engine. We have to slack her off gradually.” And then there’s this repeated gem apropos of nothing, “How do you like it now, Gentlemen.” Ross always maintained that it was an affectionate portrait of a wonderful writer, but, in essence, it made fun of him and it made him look ludicrous. If that’s how she saw him, then so be it. The press is free and she can write what she’d like to write, but don’t pretend it was an “affectionate” portrayal.
At the time, Lillian Ross was 24 years old and it was the opportunity of a lifetime to profile Ernest Hemingway, the biggest writer of the day. Years later, The New York Times wrote that “The effect of her severely unadorned portrait was to create an impression of an unpleasant egotist, a celebrity who, to a pathetic extent, had identified himself with his own public image.” As one of Hemingway’s biographers, Jeffrey Meyers, wrote later that she’d repaid his generosity with meanness and malice, and established her reputation at his expense.” Quoting Meyers again, he notes that she never recorded or revealed the serious and sensitive side of his character and chose instead to portray him as a boring braggart. So how do you like it now, Gentlemen?
When Lillian published the profile in book form shortly after Hemingway’s death, she still claimed it was a sympathetic portrait of a great, loveable man. Few readers were fooled. She also claimed he was fine with it. True. He read it before publication; felt the dye was cast so said little; and passed on it, but it was not really “fine” with him. He was hurt.
If you look at the cover, could Lillian have picked a less attractive, less compelling photo? In a reissue, there’s a nice photo of Hemingway and Lillian on the front, but I believe the original shows a Hemingway looking out of it and bizarre. If I’m wrong on this, someone out there probably knows, so please correct me.
Lillian Ross has written a new book in which Ross has collected selected pieces, including the Hemingway profile along with newer works spanning her sixty year career as a journalist. It is called “Reporting Always: Writings From The New Yorker.” It was published last week by Scribner’s, which, of course, is Hemingway’s publisher.
I can’t help being wounded for him. He trusted her and thought they were having some fun together and that she would not portray him as a lout. It’s his fault in part, no question for being too casual and not foreseeing damage for not taking the interview seriously. However, his loyalty was betrayed.
Take a read and see what you think. Perhaps you’ll see it differently. I’m happy to stand corrected or confronted.