Writing Into the Void
There he is. Ernest Hemingway. The legend that only used about one exclamation point in his whole career. The man that every writing blog needs to talk about at some point.
Oh, don't give me his quotes about writing drunk that he actually didn't say. You know two of his works, The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls. One you know thanks to South Park and the other Metallica. If Cliff Burton didn't like Hemingway so much, you would only know one book the man wrote. Let THAT sink in for a moment.
I'll do the same.
He comes to mind because the more I write, the more the reality of this quote sinks in:
“You must be prepared to work always without applause.” -Ernest Hemingway
Now, go share that in curly writing on Pinterest and put a moody black and white photo behind it for Instagram.
Sometimes our desperation to find shareable quotes from the masters makes those words have less bite somehow. We glance at these statements and go “hmm” before moving on to the swipe fest of posts below it. The meaning gets lost in there somewhere.
The time sink alone makes writing the laborious task that it is. And if you want to get good enough to put it out there for people, you have to accept rejection on top of all of that time. But, it's a passion, and I can't stop doing it even if no short story or novel ever sees the light of day.
Yet, it's the silence that runs deepest. It's cold out there where a regular person's reach online just isn't all that far. Sure, family and friends are wonderful, and they are there to support you. (And thank you family and friends, you really have been wonderful). A writer wants to grow, though. A writer sees value in what they have to say, and they want those words to reach a bunch of people.
The idea comes, it's new and a little intimidating because who knows just where it will go, but it's there. Then the outlining and scene writing and researching all kind of swirl in at the same time. At least for me, anyway.
Then the work really starts as line for line the story is written out. Whether that's a fiction or an article like this one, it works out similarly for me. Rewrites and editing and beta readers and feedback and more rewrites and more editing. That's where things get hard. That's where the story becomes the sharp object of art that it has the potential to be.
The process takes up time, energy, heart, and sometimes a little bit of your spirit down there somewhere. Those are the really special stories. The ones that you can't quite bring yourself to send in anywhere because there’s a little bit of you in there and it's hard to get that torn to shreds.
And that's just it. The rejection letters come. The terrible silence gets louder and louder as you watch your numbers on your blog dwindle down. It's hard. It hurts. You look inside yourself and question everything.
You do the whole process over and over and over again. The same things keep happening even though you try new techniques. More time is spent. More writing is done. More shouting into the cold dark void of the abyss.
"You must be prepared to work always without applause."-Ernest Hemingway
This becomes real.
Then you realize that this article started by saying how much of a legend Ernest Hemingway was/is. I mean, I don't need to tell you that in this article, you already know. But...he said this quote. He felt this too. He knew the void. It's the same void you write into. Let THAT sink in.
Writing, like any other creative passion, has so much of the real work done alone. It's the time spent hunched over your desk, by yourself, that determines your success. As long as you keep going back to the deep void and write more for it to consume, you haven't failed. Because there's something in all that cold dark. There's you. You love this, you want to write, this brings you some kind of fulfillment.
The void has no power over that.
Take heart at those rejections because you put yourself out there. You will grow. You will learn. You will keep fighting to do the thing you are called to do. The stories in your head beckon you to make them alive. What choice do you really have?
There's no secret formula or step by step process in this article to help you cope with this. It's simply about making the choice every day to keep writing. It's an everyday success, one tiny bit at a time. It's not glamorous or pin-able. It's work.
There are plenty of other writers out there in this with you. I have to keep telling that to myself too. I certainly feel like I write into the void, and it becomes an exhausting exercise. I fear all of this won't amount to the hopes that I have for it. A very rational fear I would say. Statistically, I won't be able to write fiction as a career. That's just the facts.
But...I'm still writing. Are you still writing? Because that alone gives you quite the jump on the stats. Keep putting yourself out there and keep trying. The last time you walk away from the keyboard and stop writing is the only time you truly fail.
Maybe one day you will find it isn't a void at all. It's a long, dark tunnel. If you stop now, you will never see what's at the other end of it.
I wonder what's out there.
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