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To Hell With Hemingway

Among the aspens

I got this email from a young girl in the UK:

>> Hello Bob, never replyed on one of these before :)

> Me and my husband to be have built our own motorhome, the van started
>life out as a iveco turbo daily pannel van, and we took her upto a coach
>builders in wigan up north in the Uk, that was in november last year, we got
>her back in march 2004 and started working on her, converting her into a
>motorhome, we finished her in late april in time for a motorhome show down
>in Newbury,
>since then we have just been around the midlands and down south to the new
>forest, but soon we will be going on tour of scotland :)
>my boyfriend could write about our trips but he says he's not as good as
>you, but when he sent me an email last year about his trip in the van to get
>the fridge for the motorhome, he wrote it with lots of detail and really
>well, it felt like i was there with him along for the ride, he described his
>trip really well, i keep on saying to him why dont you write about places we
>have been and things, but he just says nah, and thats it?
>can you tell him about how you started out and that he can do it if he puts
>his mind to it, imean we are both young, i'm 22 and he's 27.. :)
>we both read your emails and we have both seen your site and i think its
>amazing how you can just let your mind flow like that :) really good.

You guys have more guts than I have. But then you are young. I'm 58 years old. If I tried to build an RV, by the time I finished I'd be too old to be allowed behind the wheel.

Though as a matter of fact I am gradually rebuilding the one I have, as bits fall off.

I don't think you realize how astounding your letter is to me. "How you started out..." Hell, I'm only starting out now. Two years ago I'd hardly written anything. A little poetry, years ago. Half of an annoying master's thesis.

How can I give you, or him, advice?

Some one on the newsgroup sent me this URL:

I think Mcmanus has some pretty good things to say. And he is, or was, an established writer. This is the only thing of his I've read, but I was especially impressed with the idea of sitting down every day and writing something -anything- for two hours. So that's what I'm trying to do.

It's just my life. It seems a modest goal, but it's amazingly energizing. The more I write, the more I find to write about. It grows by what it feeds on, if that's not too pastoral an idiom. It gathers speed.

When writing gets to be a habit, like anything else, then it's not so scary. I think you have to make that habit ordinary. This is not the same thing as making your writing ordinary.

Think of it as swimming out from shore. Your infamous Loch Ness may be forbidding, dark, and deep. But the third time you take a dip, without encountering Nessie, it doesn't seem so bad. I mean, it's cold, but you can do it.

That may be what writers really mean when they wax poetic and gush: "I have to write. I write or die!" They just mean they've gotten in the habit of it, and the days they don't do it, they don't feel quite right.

Like a day without coffee. Or perhaps, in your case, tea.

If I worried about people who were better than me, I'd never get a word out. To hell with Hemingway. In fact - and here's an epiphany - that's probably why I didn't take up writing seriously when I was in my twenties, and became a fireman for thirty years instead.

I'd been to school, and acquired a taste that was above my talent.

Now that I'm old, I find that my taste has suffered to the point that I actually like what I write. That's a liberating thought. I'm only going to seem better and better, as time goes on...

Has your boyfriend been to University? He may have just been loaded up with a surfeit of good taste, as I was. That's a killer. Hard to get over, but it can be done. Don't be intimidated. There are decent things lurking in all of us that we never stop to look at.

Reading gives you tools, like vocabulary, breadth of vision, or even character, but reading is not writing. Just like eating is not throwing up.

My word. What an unedifying thing to say.

Everyone has his talents and troubles. My trouble, all my life, was and is that I'm lazy and mercurial. I get distracted by all the bright and shiny things I see. Ooooooo. Like a magpie. If that is his problem, then I can only offer this plan I've just started on.

Every day I sit down for two hours and write about something. Like I'm doing right now.

Note that I said this is the plan. Not always the reality. I still get distracted. Last winter I was distracted for 6 months.

A more romantic option, and useful in many ways, would be to ask him to write you more of those long letters, every day, even when you are together. As a lark. Like he did on the fridge trip. Try that for a while.

Start with just one. Of course, as he gets his wind up, he'll end up writing to himself as much as you. But that's just men for ya. This doesn't have to be about him. Try writing these letters yourself. You might like it.

There is a danger. If he becomes a writer, and you become his muse, he'll never leave you even if you want him to.

But I'm getting above myself. If I knew anything about the intersection of romance and writing, I'd be lolling about on an estate in Jamaica, sipping on a Red Stripe, married 40 years.

I digress. The mountains do that to ya.

Have a grand time in Scotland.


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