Ernest Hemingway always said that it was bad luck to talk about writing. He felt you should do it and not talk about it. But over the years in essays, in letters, interviews, articles, and in his novels and short stories he would occasionally let slip some of his philosophy about writing. Larry W. Phillips ferreted out all the references to the art of writing that he could find in Hemingway's work and collected them into a slender little volume called Ernest Hemingway on Writing. I picked up a copy in 1999 and I've lost count of how many times I've read it.
It's one of the book I fall back on when my writing isn't going well. Though I don't always agree with Uncle Ernest, as I call him, it is his convictions about writing, his total devotion to the art, and his refusal to do anything other than his best which inspire me and help me get back to the work. Hemingway says:
"I love to write. But it has never gotten any easier to do and you can't expect it to if you keep trying for something better than you can do."
That's it in a nutshell. I can always write the same old stuff. I am, after all, the plotting machine. But I always want something different too. In some ways the two main things that I try for in writing are almost diametrically opposed. I want to write in the traditions of authors I admire but I also want to do my own thing. It's the friction between these two goals that usually makes the work I am happiest with. This may sound a bit odd from a guy who writes mostly about barbarians and private eyes, but I do take writing seriously and I try to do it well. Here is my favorite quote from Hemingway.
"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all of that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstacy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."