Blogging Insights — Interaction

Dr. Tanya is back with her weekly Blogging Insights prompts. She provides us with a quote about blogging or writing and asks us to express our opinion about said quote.

This week’s quote is from none other than Ernest Hemingway.

In order to write about life first you must live it.

Well, Ernest Hemingway was definitely a man’s man, a rugged individualist and an adventurer. He certainly lived a full life. But I don’t think being a good writer necessitates having experienced in real life what you write about. That necessity would eliminate science fiction and horror writers whose work comes mostly from their vivid imaginations.

I do think that life’s experiences help writers. As they say, write what you know about. But I believe that having a great imagination and ability to articulate what you imagine in words is at least as important, if not more important, than life experience.

In my blog, for example, in most of my flash fiction posts, I write about things I’ve never actually experienced in my life. And in some cases, I am very thankful that I haven’t experienced them.

So, sorry, Mr. Hemingway, but as much as I admire your novels and short stories, I think you’re being a bit narrow minded if you think that one must have lived whatever it is that they write about.

12 thoughts on “Blogging Insights — Interaction

  1. The Autistic Composter May 9, 2022 / 11:54 am

    Could it not perhaps be read in a different light? As in ‘in order to be able to write about life, you must be willing to live life in the first place and not specifically tie it into a genre? The example being horro or sci fi?

    When l read this quote l don’t interpret it as such to a genre just that once you understand a bit more about life in general you can express yourself differently? This is not saying that you cannot have a brilliant imagination, but merely the best way to live is to balance your living of that life with adventure and muse.

    Never be afraid to live that life, your life and write about it – where ever the adventures take you and your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango May 9, 2022 / 10:29 pm

      I agree that you must be willing to live your life, but if what you’re writing about is something that you cannot experience first hand in the real world, whether the genre is science fiction, time travel, horror, adventure, or whatever, that doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) write about it. It may require a lot of research and study so that it, even with the genres I just mention, so that the fiction writer infuses the story with a sense of authenticity and plausibility. But when Hemingway suggested that you MUST live it to write about it, I have a different perspective. I just don’t think writing fiction requires having lived or experienced (either personally or vicariously) what you’re writing about. But maybe I’m being too literal in my interpretation of Hemingway’s quote or I’m splitting hairs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Autistic Composter May 9, 2022 / 11:23 pm

        “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” – Who knows what Ernest was thinking precisely? I see it purely as a statement of living your life and writing about life’s experiences.

        We all write about life because we live our lives, and we are gleaning experiences every day of our lives, and our lives are enriched. If you are an adventurer, you will write about your adventures in life. He was also a reporter during the first world war, which would impact how he viewed life. He wanted to be in the thickest of the action – he wanted and did lead a fast life.

        But let’s take a step back. When the quote was introduced to the world, it was said by one man on his thoughts about living his life – his views – was it deliberately designed and created for other writers to be thinking on it with intent? Probably not.

        “I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast, and I’m not really living it.”
        ― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

        Does the quote above also not further suggest how he viewed life and how he wanted to write about it?

        Hemingway wasn’t just a writer. He was a wordsmith artist who transformed his words into life itself. He didn’t just write; he absorbed the essence of what he was looking at. He used words like paints on a canvas, and with each colour, stroke was a new nuance of life, he lived life through colours and words and made his works of genius come to life with those words, and he lived any experience.

        We have to look at where most of his original quotes came from and what age was he when he said or wrote them to understand perhaps what it was exactly he was referring to.

        “Up in that room, I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.” —Ernest Hemingway.

        Everyone has a different take on this one quote – “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” So what did he mean? I think he meant to live your life as best as you can, write about it as straight and honest as possible, and allow everything you live and write about to enrich your life. Allow life to colour your words.

        But ultimately, we are talking of a novelist born in 1899 and died in 1961 – the life he led was very different to many novelists of today, so his take on life and how it is to be read and written about would be very different to modern writers.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mister Bump UK May 9, 2022 / 2:03 pm

    I think writing benefits by being plausible. Even something like Fantasy or Sci-fi, if you can write it in such a way that your story sounds plausible, you’re halfway there.

    To that extent I can understand Hemingway, because if you’ve experienced something firsthand, you should hopefully be able to write it to sound plausible. But you’re right, it’s not an absolute.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango May 9, 2022 / 11:03 pm

      I just got around to reading your response and you did a great job articulating what I was trying to get across! Same perspective, but yours was more effective.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol anne May 11, 2022 / 2:01 pm

    I have to say I agree with you fandango!
    He’s being very narrow minded! xo

    Liked by 1 person

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