“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway
To non writers, this quote probably just sounds like the musings of a drunken madman who believed his craft was far more important than its reality. How highly must a person think of themselves to believe the act of sitting down and writing should bring about images of pain, of struggle, and the release of one’s sweet crimson spilt upon the pages of an unfinished masterpiece—set to soak into the very fabric of the story itself.
For real writers, this quote means much more than just the ego fluffing of a pompous, self-absorbed author. What this quote means for those who have actually experienced the process of creating, of being so completely absorbed in one’s work that days fade into night and drift back again without notice, what it means is exactly as the man said; you bleed.
For an author to fully immerse him or herself into their work, they must become obsessed. There will be times when pain must be felt deep within. Other times pure jubilation will explode upon the page. The authors emotions will run rampant—darting from one end of the spectrum to the other while trampling everything in its wake. All of the emotions show up in the work. This is why you can read a book and know if the author simply wrote it, or really felt it.
It is quite amazing how something as simple as words upon a page, mere shapes imprinted from pressed ink, can affect us so profoundly—how these words have the ability to make us laugh, make us cry, make us think, bore us to tears, or touch our souls in such a way that we can never forget. For an author to make such an impact upon the reader he must bleed, he must put his soul into the work. In order to do it right, he has no choice.
When you hear a writer talk of their work as if it were a craft that leaves them physically crushed, don’t scoff. Do not mock them for feeling what you have never. If you cannot say you have put all of your heart and soul into one thing, one passion, one obsession, do not think it’s ludicrous or impossible to feel such a way. A person’s passion is something that only they can truly understand. This is why it can be so dangerous if not kept in check.
You see, passion is the one thing that has the ability to fulfill and destroy us in the same motion. Differentiating the line between passion and unhealthy obsession can become very difficult under certain circumstances. When a writer gets to the point where they bleed for their art, that is where the line starts to blur. Spouses will get alienated, other work will be cast aside, physical health gets ignored, and self-destruction can become the norm. But is it worth it?
Is it worth all of the torment, the emotional roller coaster, all of the sleepless nights and the endless parade of distracted thoughts? Does the finished product make all of one’s personal suffering worth it? If you bled into the work—if your words show a part of your soul to the reader—if the reader feels what you felt deep within themselves, then damn right it’s worth it.
Never let the flames of passion dwindle.