Tuesday, 30 October 2012

I'm Not Hemingway

It's so good to be back! And it's Halloween! And Frankenstorm just ravaged New York! And the elections are a mere week away! And the last Twilight is coming soon! And...and...my head is totally spinning. So many things have happened, and are going to happen, I'm awash with emotion. What they are, exactly, I can't say--it's just that frickin' much.

I haven't blogged in about a month and I have to do some major catching up, but for what it's worth I got to have some much needed "down time" and I also managed to make some major threads in my writing. I'm nearly finished with one and half way through the other. How's that for progress, huh? Last month I was unsure if I was even able to finish my WIP before next year and now I'm well on my way. Ah yes, I feel good.

And speaking of which: I have a little story to tell you that revolves around the whole premise of "good" and what it means to writing. Okay, so our tale starts last week on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon--birds chirping, bees buzzing and the fresh caress of wind kissing my cheeks... Well, not quite but it was a gorgeous day nonetheless. I was sitting on the porch at my grandma, penning Chapter 7, when Banquo, an old friend of the family, stopped by to see my grandfather. Now, Banquo is a man in his forties with a bald head, a wild, toothy smile and huge green globes that bore into your very flesh. I've known him for a while and he likes to ask questions and argue about things he knows little about. Ya, he's that kind of a gentleman.

"Basquil, here?" he asked (Basquil is my grandpa's nickname)

"Yeh," I said, and I called out to my grandma to tell her who was here, then I returned my attention to the page.

"So yuh busy busy with school?."

"Nah, this is my WIP."

"Yuh what?"

"Uh, my novel."

"Oh, oh right--a novel," he said shaking his head knowingly. "So yuh tryin' to be a writer, eh? Like Hemingway?"

(Like Hemingway?) "Yeah, I guess I am." and I put my head down, trying to concentrate.  

After a long pause he says, "Yuh thhink you good like Hemingway?"

"Um...I don't think...um--no. I don't think I am."

He laughs. "Well if you ain't good like one ah the greats what's the point?"


"I don't have--"

But I never got to tell him. My grandpa came out at that moment and they both left quite abrubtly.

I have always questioned my worth with regard to writing; half the time I think I suck and half the time I want to give up and never try again. When I read books like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, How to Kill a Mockinbird, Carrie, The Great Gatsby and all those other fantastic works out there, I ask myself, "Do you really think you can do that?" For as long as I can remember the question has always been "no".

Until that Tuesday afternoon.

Banquo made me realize that I am not like Hemingway, nor should I ever try to be. I am not a great writer; I can't spin beautiful prose at the drop of a hat, execute perfect grammar in a heartbeat or create characters that speak to millions without much thought. No. I am none of that because I am me. I am a good writer who can spin beautiful prose after countless revisions, execute perfect grammar after quite a few spell checks and create characters that speak to many after I've polished their dialogue, spoofed up their background and made them die, bleed, cry and die again. I don't have to write a fantastic novel that will win awards and sell millions, I just have to write a good book. That's all. You see, writing is like the paintings at an art exhibition: hundreds of people are gathered around The Scream absolutely in awe of it, but you walk by and all you see is a mess of colors and the vague image of this wobbly looking "man" holding his face. What's a gem to some isn't a gem to you; what fancies me doesn't fancy you. That's writing. And that's how it's always been and always will be.

No matter if I do write great prose not everyone will get it. Some will still call it shit. And that's okay. That's absolutely, positively okay! It took me so many years to realize this but I'm glad I have. Now I don't care (that much) if I write glowing stuff or not, 'cause who's to say it's not great? An aspiring writer? A NY Times Bestseller? Kirkus Reviews? Pfft, please. When all is said and done, the only one who can call you a bad writer is you.

Or Ernest Hemingway...

But he's dead, so...



Kyra Lennon said...

Welcome back!

Boy, did I need to read this today. At the end of two weeks when I have questioned over and over whether I should give up this writing thing - and I'm still not out of the woods yet - I needed a little bit of a pep talk about who gets to decide whether I'm good enough!

T.D. McFrost said...

Happy belated birthday Kyra! I just saw the email thingy.

I mean everything I say here and I will forever remember the message of it: we create art and it's beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Just like any other artform. I just got sick of feeling like I had to be like so and so to be valued as a writer. I don't. And neither do you. Write the best book you can, follow the rules (or not sometimes) and just do your thang, girl.

If it's any consolation, I think your prose is like ice cream on a hot day. (<--See, good writing at it's best. LOL)

Angela Brown said...

Welcome back :-)

Glad you've made a great deal of headway with your writing.

I think I needed this reminder today...especially today. I am near the end of a blogtown tour and am currently reconciling - in my head and heart - whether or not the number of books sold translates to how good or terrible I write. For a time...I've been feeling my writing to be on the terrible side if sales were the indicator. But this post is a reminder of the focus. The focus on the writing. My writing and the joy I get from it.

Off I go to be not Hemingway, but me :-)

DEZMOND said...

Welcome back, dear T.D. hope you managed to relax during your holiday away from the blogosphere :)

""Well if you ain't good like one ah the greats what's the point?"
he he ... love that question. I get his point, but only a few can strive to be the greatest, which doesn't mean there isn't enough space for those who are somewhere close to it, far away from it or no way near it. We've seen it so many times that every bad book has its bad readers, every great book has its great readers and every mediocre book has its mediocre readers... so everybody can fit somwhere....
And don't forget that greatness comes from experience and noticing things.... everywhere around you and in you.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I think you are a fine writer. You should give yourself a chance, publish something, and get it out there for people to read.

Elise Fallson said...

Yeah you're back!
I agree with Michael. I'm nothing like Hemingway so should I just stop trying and chuck it all along with my dreams? I think not. No one should.

ryan field said...

I find that watching you evolve all the time, as a writer and a person, is just plain inspiring :)

And, I think you're good. I'm not too fond of Hemingway. He always bored me to death. But I like what you write!!

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