Writing with a pencil

If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333, which is a damned good average for a hitter.

Ernest Hemingway

(via The Cramped)

Write just one sentence

Stuck, in limbo, at the fright of starting. It is the activation energy that gets us over the hurdle of inertia. For Ernest Hemingway, writing one sentence motivated him to write more and more.

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 that you know. So, finally I would write one true sentence and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

However, his other writing trick took advantage of intertia. By pausing what and putting aside his next idea, he could guarantee he had something to play with the next day.

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.

Action begets action but the breaks also serve an important purpose. As Albert Camus wrote: “Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.”

Read Inertia

There is no perfect idea

the shape of ideas, books
The Shape of Ideas by Grand Snider

There is no such thing as the perfect idea. As Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, ‘Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.’ Or as novelist Iris Murdoch instructs, “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”

Our creative work calls for more action than reaction. Sure, there are benefits to structured procrastination but at some point, we have to sit our ass down (or stand up, whatever your preference is) and do the work.

How do you know when to stop working?

Ernest Hemingway’s writing habits always ensured he sustained momentum. In Moveable Feast, he writes: ‘I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.’

'I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.' — Ernest HemingwayClick To Tweet

Hemingway’s approach for writer’s block was to write badly and then hold on to the bit with the most truth.

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 that you know. So, finally I would write one true sentence and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”

The discomforting tensions around perfection are means to go, a green light to turn a work into something fresh.

Read more about conquering creative struggles:


 

Smoke This

Sitting is not the new smoking. Smoking kills you outright. Sitting for long periods of time without moving will do the same. But sitting in 45 minute intervals and then getting up to take a five minute break will keep you just as healthy as standing all day at work, which probably has its own negative consequences.

Some people need to sit in order to do focused, creative work. They may stand to answer email and input data. Meanwhile, the only way some people can work is on their feet.

Marketers sell fear. They sell successful role models that worked standing up, most notably Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Hemingway. Standing up is a health recommendation, not a promise for success.

Sitting won’t kill you if you get up every once in a while, preferably for exercise.

Cling Cling

Bad moods are sticky. They’re the harbinger for pessimism and depression. No one wants to hang around a Scrooge.

“What you are thinking about you are becoming.” Muhammad Ali

Bad moods are also contagious. People hate Monday’s because everyone else does too. People complain about rain, spreading feelings of anxiety and doom.

The irony of bad moods and things that cause them (Mondays, rain) is that they inspire creativity. Negativity makes you think different.

“That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.” – Ernest Hemingway

The flip side of emotions is also true. A positive outlook generates creative vibes.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” – Zig Ziglar

Bad moods and good moods can also work together to benefit creativity. If a bad mood goads a rebellious thought, a good mood can calm you down, making your ideas more more optimistic and practicable.

Obsession with pessimism produces anger and constant sadness. It’s an artist’s poison. But positivity prevents you from clinging on to bad thoughts too long. Like a child, you can be mad one minute and happy and forgiving the next.

A proper attitude is free flowing, never stuck in gear with remnant and ill-will. The trick to brighter moments is to live on and let go.