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About writing

Updated: Oct 24, 2021



Writing is witchcraft.

A writer who tells us about his technique exposes his struggles with an impossible dare, the creation of a masterful illusion. He deconstructs his quest for truth, a sublimation process born out of an overused material: language. If successful, his creation will seem to disappear and will instill emotions as strong as life itself.

Emotions themselves are best described by the actions that created them in the first place. Hemingway would compare the technique to a "three cushion shot":

"Find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making so that the reader will see it too and have the same feeling that you had". (...) [Find ]"the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten".

Great literature create the motions that lead to unforeseen emotions without us noticing the sequence of events. This is what the artist does – he creates an emotion out of a contextual material (words, paint, sounds) and gives us the illusion of life for eternity.


Some writers may focus on the form, the music, and struggle to craft sentences. They run the risk to forget the truth. And when they're digging for their guts, they're tempted to ignore the form, because the combination of both in a single voice is so hard to achieve and so rare. The writer tries to be as close as possible to his truth: "Write one true sentence"[i], Hemingway says - but he is always tempted to drift. It takes discipline to avoid easy lines. In this endeavor, one can suffer greatly.


Truth is more important than writing. Young writers may have to break their inner music and wait for something else to emerge. How do you silence an inner music? Unfortunately, you’ll have to forget it or destroy it. Write in a foreign language. Write in your own language but take your sentences and write without putting words on a melody, throw the words out there, spew them and do stay as close to the meaning of the words as you can. Avoid the fascination of the sounds, shake the temptation of the beautiful sentence, the perfect melody. Just throw paint on the canvas and carve it without mercy. And do it long enough that you forget the way your lines used to sing before. It may take a long time for truth to emerge, if it ever does. It takes a lot of observation and skills to become this seemingly transparent medium between the reader and life.

[i] A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

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