Hemingway’s Guts

On writing habits and learning to use your voice to make people drop their pants.


I’ve always argued that to write creatively, you shouldn’t force yourself to follow any prescribed daily habits to be successful because it’s an art. Like sex, it should happen during the throes of passion, otherwise you’ll just be despondently participating while thinking about what to eat or how much laundry you have to do later.

I once studied a text about the writing process in which the author describes the process as a supernatural phenomenon very much outside of their control. They describe working in the middle of a field when an idea for a story or poem smacks into them as if it was carried to them by the wind. The author would dash home in a furious panic because if they didn’t make it to a pen and paper in time, that the story would blow away and be gone forever. I loved that idea. It’s much more romantic thfacean Hemingway sitting at his typewriter bleeding his guts out.

However, I’ve begun to wonder if I was wrong.


In fact, I am now so certain that writing when I’m only in a fit of creative passion is a poor strategy that I’m forcing myself to write this blog right now. All I really want to be doing is playing my ukulele. Have I achieved manic pixie dream girl status yet?


I’ve been trying to learn how to sing lately to accompany my new instrument, and singing is one of those things that I thought you could either do or not.  I assumed I was the latter despite friends telling me otherwise when I drunkenly serenaded them. My response was usually to intentionally screech whatever I was singing (very likely Don’t Stop Believing by Journey) so that they would have no false illusions about my talentlessness.

I’m trying to learn how to sing now because the Youtuber I’ve been fangirling over lately, Jonathan Young, changed my perspective on whether people are gifted with talent or not. He has without a doubt the sexiest singing voice I’ve ever heard (hence my obsession). And in high school people told him that he sucked at singing. I know. What?!

In a couple of his videos, he adamantly argues against people who say that they wish they could sing because he’s proof that you can do it if you work hard at it. Like learning an instrument, it’s all about practice. He wouldn’t have the ability to drop women’s pants with his voice now had he not practiced (I mean, I don’t know if he actually has that ability, but I’m pretty certain he does).

I feel that it’s the same way with writing when you’re uninspired. The more you practice at it, the easier it will become. Hopefully. I mean, only writing when inspired is a life long philosophy I’ve held, and this is the first time I’ve forced myself to write when I didn’t want to in a while. It’s felt like pulling teeth. But here I am, at the end of the blog post. We did it, guys!

Of course some people will always be more naturally talented than others. But I would rather be someone who works hard to achieve a mediocre level of competency than someone who doesn’t earn their rewards.

Perhaps Hemingway meant that he was bleeding his guts out at his typewriter not just as a metaphor for baring his soul in his writing, but also the suffering that comes with forcing yourself to write as well.

Free Write– “Typical”

The result of a free write exercise. There are bad words, sexual references, and drugs in this post. Sounds like a good time, right?

It needs, he thought, it needs…to be held. Gently in soft lubricated hands with long fingers tipped by carefully manicured nails. It needs to be pleasured, made love to. Fucked. Hard. It needs…it needs cocaine. That was it. You can’t go wrong with cocaine. Well, maybe you could. But what did he care? His heart hurt, after all. It needed to be held, or it needed cocaine, and the former wasn’t going to happen. Not since she’d gone.

He thought of the energy infused in his muscles after snorting a line, mouth chattering almost faster than the words spouting out his throat, eyelids peeled back, taking everything in faster than possible, his energy lashing out in all directions, feeling larger than his body. And his heart. Oh, his heart would race with joy. It would thunder and leap in his chest. It would palpitate with life, with the rush. Energy. Rage. Love. He needed cocaine.

Getting up from the disheveled bed, he rubbed his hands across his unkempt beard, brushing out the stale granules of last night’s pizza from his face. He stumbled over to the coffee table, sticky with pop spilled a month ago. A month. A whole month gone by without her, his heart cold and untouched.

He’d devoured a large pepperoni pizza and two pounds of salt and pepper wings the previous night in an attempt to feed his heart, thinking that maybe after all this time that it might just be hungry, and that it was just crying for food to comfort it. But his heart didn’t want pizza and wings. The food hadn’t made it happy. Instead, it had only made his skin oily and his stomach protrude with an unsightly food baby beneath the black fuzz of his body hair. His bed sheets were filled with crumbs and his heart was indifferent, empty and untouched.

He had touched other things in attempt to heal the shuttering gasping thing in his chest. In fact, his genitals were well loved—not by anyone else, but at least they responded to his efforts, like his stomach did to food. They allowed themselves to be indulged unlike his sad heavy heart.

But somewhere in the city, there was cocaine.

The thought spread in him like warm honey oozing down an aching throat. He didn’t have any coke in the house, hadn’t for years. He didn’t even remember his dealer’s name, let alone his contact information. Why was life so hard?

With a sigh that wreaked his whole body, the man fumbled with a slip of cigarette rolling paper and dumped in some green from the absurd amount in the jar on the sticky table. He ran his tongue along the paper, the moisture picking up little flecks of weed, green on pink. Bitter. Like everything in his world.

He pinched the paper together, lit the end and took in a breath matching the ferocity of his sighs. The cloud of grey smoke rushed into his lungs. It filled his whole chest, but it didn’t reach his heart. Typical.

Writing Exercise

On Chinooks, Alberta, and an exercise to cure writer’s block.

It’s actually nice outside.

There’s a wind, but there’s always wind here. But there’s sunlight too. I’ve missed the sun so much. We’ve been in a deep freeze for the last two weeks and after totaling my car, I’ve been confined to my little basement suite looking mournfully out at the sunless sky above. I went for a few walks outside and even a run during the deep freeze, but when I came back inside I felt like my skin had been pierced through my double layers by shards of ice.

Apparently there’s few other places in the world that get Chinooks like we do here, which is strange because it just seems so normal. According to Global News, a Chinook is when, “moist air drives up against mountain ranges. Once it rains or snows, the air is ’emptied’ of that moisture, and is then a drier air mass. The dry air then moves downhill on the lee side of the mountain range.” That creates a warm wind that melts our snow and a line of cloud that looks like this:

Global News

The picture above is a very typical view in Southern Alberta. It’s very flat here, but you can usually see the mountains out to the west bragging about their tumultuous plains, trying to make me jealous. It works.

And no, Chinooks have nothing to do with Global Warming. *squints at Leonardo DiCaprio*

I can’t wait to get out there.

But in the meantime, I’m here to share some examples of the writing exercise I wrote about in a previous blog. It’s the exercise where you put a song on and don’t let your pen stop until the song is over. If my pen works faster than my brain, I repeatedly write the last word until my brain can catch up. You’ll see that in my first example; these are unedited and exactly like they are in my notebook.

Saturday, Jan 14 2016

Hallelujah – Michael M. Moore 3:20

She gazed out at the water. The sound of blaring car horns echoed across it, skittering across its smooth surface like a skipped stone. She couldn’t remember how she’d found this haven, this small pond in amidst the new and the steel and the crunch of of of tires on glass and trash. It was green here. And old. The trees clambered up, reaching towards the sky to scrape a puff of silk from the bottoms of the clouds.

Le Trouble – White Knuckles 2:43

She approached the tall door, a sense of impending dread clenching the inside of her from her womb. Her empty womb. She suddenly felt like laughing. Or Screeching. Maybe both. She wanted them to escape from her body and shake her into a million little pieces, falling to shards of herself on the doorstep. Shards that bitch inside would cut herself on.

Even though the grammar isn’t perfect and the writings are over all quite messy, look at what I’ve pulled out of my brain. There’s a setting and someone’s perspective of it in the first one, and there’s a glimpse of a character and tension that could easily lend itself to the plot of a story in the second.There’s also some wonderful metaphors.

All because I forced myself to write and not stop.

If you want to be a writer, do this. Do this all the time. Get a notebook and dedicate it solely to your timed writings, and if the song stops, but your brain wants to keep going, then keep going. Just write. It is without a doubt the best way to annihilate writer’s block.

Progress and Vanity

After three summer months of writers block, I’ve finally gotten some work done on my novel! When I got back to it, I was at about 130 pages, and now I’m almost at 160!

I know, I know, quality over quantity. I say this every time, but I can’t help my obsessive preoccupation with page counting. It’s a good feeling, even if those pages you’ve written are absolute crap, you’ve still written. That’s certainly worth something. Sometimes you only get one good sentence from a rough draft of ten pages, but it’s one more sentence than you had before. Previously it was about 150 pages, and due to some major changes, I chopped it down to 130. It was painful, but necessary.

Currently I’ve been working on adding three new characters which I think are necessary. I’ve been having a difficult time with showing not telling, and these new characters serve that function. I don’t know if my new 30 pages or so will stick around, but I know at least two of my characters will, and my head is in the creepy haunted island where my story is set/an alternate future reality where my published book is being adapted into a mini series in which I am able to work on. That itself will produce more pages even if these ones get cut.

I know lots of writers are against editing anything until their piece is completely done, but that’s not my deal. It’s that whole obsessive thing I mentioned in an earlier post. It doesn’t cause writer’s block for me; in fact, it usually gives me even more ideas to make it better than it already is.

The reason I got blocked in the first place didn’t actually have much to do with writing either. To put it plainly: I was having a bad time. In fact, I’m still having a pretty bad time. So how did I start writing again? Daydreaming. Specifically, about my success. That and about Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that’s a different story. There’s nothing like a little self indulgence and vanity to give you the drive to get back to what you know you’re meant to be doing.

The cool thing is that right now I feel like the writing I’m doing is just some colouring around the edges; the main plot points are already written. With some fine tuning, I have almost the whole first part done and after doing a skim through today, well, it’s damn good. It just needs a bit of shoe polish.

My goal for the next little while is to work on said polishing of the first four chapters or so, and then I will put those chapters into the hands of a writer friend to critique. This is pretty big as I deemed my last three novels not worthy of ever seeing the light of day by anyone else ever (I still stand by this. They’re crap).  I’ve had about two of the chapters from it critiqued in creative writing classes, but it’s changed so drastically since then that it wasn’t really even the same story that it is now. Either way, the point is…it’s almost ready to be read. Not as individual installments from a larger piece, but actually as the larger piece. Terrifying. Exciting. Crazy. I’m going to be famous.

Side note: every time and every day should totally follow the footsteps of something and anything. Amirite?