You must be prepared to work always without applause. When you are excited about something is when the first draft is done. But no one can see it until you have gone over it again and again until you have communicated the emotion, the sights, and the sounds to the reader, and by the time you have completed this the words, sometimes, will not make sense to you you read them, so many times have you re-read them. By the time the book comes out you will have started something else and it is all behind you and you do not want to hear about it. But you do, you read it in covers and you see all the places that now you can do nothing about. All the critics who could not make their reputations by discovering you are hoping to make them by predicting hopefully your approaching impotence, failure, and general drying up of natural juices. Not a one will wish you luck or hope that you will keep on writing unless you have political affiliations in which case these will rally around and speak of you and Homer, Balzac, Zola, and Link Steffens. You are just as well off without these reviews. Finally, in some other place, at some other time, when you can’t work and feel like hell you will pick up the book and look in it and start to read and go on and in a little while say to your wife, “why this stuff is bloody marvelous.”
And she will say, “Darling, I always told you it was.” Or maybe she doesn’t hear you and says, “what did you say?” and you do not repeat the remark.
But if the book is good, is about something that you know, and is truly written and in reading over you can see this is so you can let the boys yip and the noise will have that pleasant sound coyotes make on a very cold night when they are out in the snow and you are in your own cabin which you have built or paid for with your work.
By-Line, Ernest Hemmingway, p. 185
I finished reading the book that curated Hemmingway’s advice on writing last night. It was interesting enough that I’m tempted to go back to primary sources, since so many of them are actually referenced, and maybe take another crack at Hemmingway in long form (which I generally didn’t like, when I was younger). In the short-term I’m going to break out my copy of Hemmingway’s short fiction, which is another matter entirely – it took me years to figure out how to read it, but once you do stories like Hills Like White Elephants become something intriguing and brilliant.
The book of advice, though? There are enough bright sparks within the covers that I could probably spend the next week posting excerpts like the above – points where Hemmingway is both cruel and sane and capable of creating something quite beautiful with words – but it’s probably easier to just point you towards the book if you’re interested.