“Papa” Hemingway’s Thoughts on Risk, Writing, and the Discipline of Chasing Dreams…DeMarco Banter

Been going through a Hemingway phase for about the past year or so…some great life and leadership lessons in his autobiography, biographies and stories… below is a few exerpts of Hemingway talking to his friend about going into writing and pursuing dreams…

“Papa” (Hemingway’s nickname) I wanted to ask you….I know it is hard for someone to answer for someone else…the more I see of Paris….that more I feel I should give up my job and country and seriously live here and find out if I can be a writer…It’s just that I’m young now… and I remember the equation you once mentioned–“hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age.”

Hemingway responds: “Well, it’s tough advice to give.  Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out.  If there’s nothing or very little, the shock can kill a man.”

“…I finally shucked off the journalism I had been complaining about and I was finally doing all the good writing I had promised myself.”

“The rejection slip is very hard to take on an empty stomach and there are times when i would sit at that old wooden table and read one of those cold slips that had been attached to a story I had loved and worked on very had and believed in, and I couldn’t help crying.”

I never think of you crying,” from A.E. Hotchner

I cry boy…when the hurt is bad enough…So Hotch, just as you wouldn’t give a friend advice on whether of not to play the wheel, you can’t on this, except to quote the odds, which are a damn sight worse then roulette.  And yet…yet, there’s this to consider as a guide, since it’s a thing I truly know:  If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for there rest of your life…it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A.E. Hotchner wrote the incident down and years later when Mary Hemingway was searching for a title for Hemingway’s posthumously published memoirs of his years in Paris from 1921 to 1926., which he left untitled… Hotch remembered the words, “a moveable feast,” and gave them to Mary for his book.

Paris during the inter-war era…. was indeed a famous time, by now deeply embedded in American legend, and much of the legend probably is fiction embroidered by nostalgia: the nostalgia of those few who were there, the nostalgia of those of us who wish we had been. In Hemingway’s specific case, it was the nostalgia he felt for the days when he was writing at his peak.

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘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 then go on from there. . . . If I started to write elaborately . . . 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. Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.”

“I knew the stories were good and someone would publish them finally at home,” Papa wrote. “When I stopped doing newspaper work I was sure the stories were going to be published. But every one I sent out…came back.”

In his 50s Hemingway tended to romanticize these days in Paris — “When you are twenty-five and are a natural heavyweight, missing a meal makes you very hungry. But it also sharpens all of your perceptions”

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

Ernst Hemingway’s career was indeed remarkable…dare I say legendary. He had done it all by 1956, when he was spurred into reminiscence following the rediscovery of some old Paris notebooks which had lain for many years in a trunk in the basement of the Ritz hotel. He’d won the Nobel prize. He’d won the Pulitzer prize. He’d sold hundreds of thousands of books. He’d inspired dozens of imitators. He’d become an adjective and a legend. His life outside writing was just as celebrated: the bull fight aficionado, the boxer, the big game hunter, the fisherman, the friend of Spanish Republicans, the man who liberated Pairs. Papa: the tall, handsome, heavyweight alpha male…. led off his autobiography with…

“This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.”

Early in the morning of 2 July 1961, Ernest Hemingway ended his own life…a truly tragic end to what was obviously an amazing yet troubled existence, and yet… I have to ask you…where/when is your movable feast?

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