Tag Archives: Ernest Hemingway

What Would Hemingway Do? (WWHD?)

Working alone in a shed at the far corner of a boatyard provides me plenty of time to think, and curling up in the forward cabin with my laptop, well beyond any internet signals, leaves me hours of distraction-free time to write. But it doesn’t sell books. These days, if you want to sell books, social networking is the way to go. And while I spend my days working on the boat, in every sense of the word, my fellow authors are actively working online, posting to Facebook, Tweeting, and commenting, as well as utilizing numerous other social network platforms I’ve yet to explore.

True, I’ve blogged for years, though originally my blog wasn’t even a blog, but simply a web page documenting a previous boat restoration. When I began, it gave me a way to easily share pictures and stories with a small circle of friends. The content has since branched into other areas and attracted more readers, and I’ve  linked it (sort of — there’s still some kinks) to Facebook, yet this blog remains my main online presence. But these days, new platforms are emerging at an accelerating rate, and I realize as an author, it would serve me well to learn and use these latest ways of reaching out to a wider audience.

Instead, I continue to split my time between my family, an old boat, and writing. And the other day, while I cut my way through yards of fiberglass, I found myself wondering: is this what I should be doing if I ever hope to achieve greatness. Okay. Just kidding. I’ll settle for reasonable mid-list-ish-ness. But seriously, if some of the ‘great’ authors of days gone by were alive today, how would they spend their time? Would they be out, living life and writing about it, or would they be hunkered down in the glow of their computer monitors, chained to their WiFi signals like dogs by an invisible fence as they delved into the many layers of social media and networked with their fellow authors and readers?

Would John Steinbeck be sharing on Tumblr?
Would Mark Twain ask readers to ‘like’ him on Facebook?
Would Edgar Allen Poe attend Thrillerfest?
Would Emily Dickinson post her Pintrests?
Would Jane Austen frequent Reddit?
 Would Jules Verne be updating his Author Page?
Would Agatha Christie be Linkedin?
Would Ernest Hemingway Tweet?

I know this social networking thing works, and I’ve seen how the authors most adept at it have a distinct advantage when it comes to reaching and connecting with readers. Don’t construe that I’m knocking social networking – if anything, I wish it came more naturally to me. I’m simply wondering how authors of the past, the ones who rose to iconic status, would deal with social networking. If they ignored it, would they still have risen to the heights that they did? And if they embraced it, would they still have had time to write on a level that made them the authors we know today?

And on that note, I’m posting this and unplugging my computer. I have much work to do.

The Old Dude and the Dinghy…

Hemingway’s Pilar – fishing, done right.

I’ll admit it right here: aside from his choice in boats, I’d never been much of a Hemingway fan. I know, as a writer, Hemingway is considered legendary, and I suppose it might be in my best interests to understand why – or at least make an attempt. But the truth of the matter is the trauma of high school assigned reading still haunts me, and the mere whisper of such things as Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea still conjure up unpleasant memories of incomplete book reports and the stern glares of frustrated teachers who tried to instill in me a love of all things literary. It wasn’t that I didn’t love reading – it was a rare day when I didn’t have some dog-eared old hard-boiled detective novel nestled between the pages of my textbooks – but why did it seem that class assignments always centered around the most painfully tedious tomes wrought with hidden symbolism and utterly miserable characters.  Ethan Frome? Seriously?  Too much angst. And The Old Man and the Sea…well, I went into that one with higher expectations, after all there was one thing I did know about Hemingway. He had a boat. Not just any boat, but Pilar, a graceful 38’ Wheeler Playmate, one of the most beautiful sportfishing boats ever created, and he was an avid fisherman.  I spent some of the best years of my childhood aboard a 38’ Wheeler, and I loved to fish. This book was inspired by his time fishing aboard that boat. Boats, fishing.  That sounded promising. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. But there wasn’t any Wheeler to be found motoring along within those pages, or any real plot that I could recall. It was a beaten down old guy in a rowboat, and he never truly lands the fish, at least not in one piece. A dude in a dinghy, along with some deep and profound hidden message that held little significance to me at that point in life. Epic battle?  Epic yawn. All that kept running through my head was, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  The sharks chowed down on his prize, my eyes glazed over and my interest switched back to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, sipping gin and calling the shots as he righted wrongs, cruised aboard his houseboat, the Busted Flush, and rumbled along in Miss Agnes, his electric blue Rolls Royce pickup. No matter that my teachers declared those paperbacks worthless trash; Travis was way more interesting than Santiago. If there was something moving about Hemingway’s story, I just wasn’t getting it, and I’ve never had the desire to revisit that tale to figure out what, if anything I missed in the first place. But recently I read something that surprised me about Hemingway, and that got me to thinking about the legend that surrounds him. Apparently, Hemingway was actually rather introverted. It stands to reason: he was reportedly intensely private, intuitive and introspective, and I suppose as writers go, those are useful qualities. Introverts by nature are more content to listen and observe than to talk about themselves, which serves us well for building characters and plots. We’re not shy, we’re just reserved, and we’d much rather hear what others have to say. We’re listening and we’re thinking. True, Hemingway was known for his bravery and adventurous personality, but he also valued his solitary time, as evidenced by his prolific body of work. Looking through black and white photos of Hemingway, I notice he’s most often alone or with one or two others, and he seems to carry an expression of intense thoughtfulness. So what is it behind the legend? Was he actually the most interesting man in the world…or the most interested one?