Hemingway On Blogging

March 4, 2008

Performancing has a great interview with Larry W. Philips, who edited the book Ernest Hemingway on Writing.  As you might guess, the book is full of the Papa’s observations on the nature of the writer’s life; however, the author makes some interesting points about writing, journalism, and blogging in the interview.  When asked about fledgling writers getting started with newspaper work (after all, that is how Hemingway began), he replied:

“I think numerous dangers lurk in journalism for the writer who wants to go beyond journalism. Bloggers are actually closer to having the kind of freedom to really develop as writers, IMO, than journalists. I’ll give an exaggerated answer here, in order to show what I mean.

A journalist has limitations. He can’t use slang, he can’t use the way real people talk (often), he can’t (or isn’t supposed to) include his opinion, can’t mention personal beliefs or convictions, isn’t supposed to draw conclusions, can’t use obscenity, can’t use long, odd or quirky sentences, can’t say anything bad about a company or product (you may get sued), can’t make the story too long, and on and on—I could list many other limitations. It’s rather like a painter being told to go paint a picture, but without using yellow, blue, red, green, brown, black, or purple. This is an exaggeration, as I say, but it hints at what the problem is, and what Hemingway was getting at.”

On a related note, I recently had a client say how pleased she is when writers/prospective writers have blogs, because then she can see the raw material and how they really write, without the luxury of an editor(s).  This is true – while blogs might be more likely than say, a magazine or book to contain typos (it happens to the best of us), it is also a lot more difficult to hide.  Like I’ve said before, if you want to be a writer, perhaps the first thing you should do is get a blog and get started.