Hemingway on life

Maybe you’ve seen this. It’s one of those self help mantras that has been making its way across Facebook:

Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.

Ernest Hemingway

Actually the quote originally began with “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think:” Which is what it was, advice for young writers. It’s doubtful it was written for anybody else at all. Writers typically don’t give a god damn what the rest of you do, as long as you keep providing material.  The last thing a writer wants is for all you to be wandering about happy and content. The more fucked up and miserable you are, the better.  And you think I’m joking.

And not to keep picking on Facebook, but it was William Saroyan who said it, not Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s advice to a young writer was:

Christ don’t be an ass and say you could go on and write if you know how you stand etc. God knows you’re in the most depressing and discouraging surroundings–but that’s what makes a writer. You have to catch hell. You’ve got to take punishment … Write a lot–but see a lot more. Keep your ears and eyes going and try all the time to get your conversations right.

Not exactly mantra stuff. Nuts and bolts writing stuff.  As for life advice….

Don’t you drink? I notice you speak slightingly of the bottle. I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well-being that rum does?… The only time it isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. But it always helps my shooting. Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.

So maybe if you’re looking for a self-help guru to guide you blissfully through life, a writer is not the best choice. Especially Ernest Hemingway, who blew his brains out with a shotgun.

My favorite Hemingway quote?

Fuck literature.

He always did like those short sentences.