Serving the High Plains

Taking a few cues from Hemingway

I need to write a column and nothing is grabbing me.

So, I have now completed Ernest Hemingway’s first advice on writing when you’re not sure about what to write.

“Write one true sentence,” he said. “Write the truest sentence that you know.”

I did that. Now what?

When you stop, Hemingway said, don’t start until you’ve read again what you’ve already written.

OK. So I re-read the first sentence.

Now what?

Well, now I’m on my own til I quit for the day, so Hemingway says.

I can write about Hemingway. There’s another brief, declarative sentence. I’m on my way.

There was a terrific Ken Burns mini-series about Hemingway on public television a few weeks ago. I saw the first two parts on KENW, but the last two I had to watch online.

But I did watch them, even though I usually don’t go through that much trouble.

I watched them because Hemingway continues to be one of my favorite writers.

He wrote simply, but his writing could take you to a place that was as complex, as strong and as vulnerable as Hemingway was.

He was interesting even if he was no role model, especially for the 21st Century male.

That’s sad because if he had revealed what he hid behind an almost cartoonish macho façade, he would have been admired for what masculine has become these days.

It is now OK to admit to some fears and show some tenderness and pain once in a while — even to express disappointment when things don’t go your way, rather than to pretend to shrug it off.

Sadly, it has now become acceptable, especially in certain political circles, to be as rottenly narcissistic as Hemingway could be.

Donald Trump has somehow made narcissistic boasting and whining be perceived as noble by an adoring multitude.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has followed Trump’s example with his recent bad behavior — lying and concocting red herrings out of thin air — in response to accusations about previous bad behavior with young women and girls.

Hemingway was cruel to his wives and sometimes mean to people who had supported him. And he drank too much. Way too much.

He had regular bouts of mental and emotional turmoil, some of which could have resulted from concussions. His head was accident-prone.

Much of his courage was real, though. He was badly wounded as an ambulance driver on the front in World War I. He also occasionally engaged in combat as a war correspondent in World War II.

As Burns portrays it, Hemingway’s life was a series of tragedies, many of his own making, interrupted by magnificent triumphs. His life ended in suicide.

As a writer, though, Hemingway set the standard by which all other writers have since been judged.

OK. Almost done. I wrote my true sentence, even if the rest had little to do with the opener. So it goes.

Maybe I should have used a pencil, like Hemingway did. I wonder what he would have done with Microsoft Word?

Steve Hansen writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

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