The World Boiled Down


I know it has been awhile. Things have been busy. Last week Muna’s Program kicked off.

Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)

Twenty-four veterans from all across America come to Purdue University. For twelve hours a day for eight days, they learned to be entrepreneurs.

It was a great week. We made a lot of new friends, saw some old ones and learned a lot. I’ve been involved in three EBVs as a student and volunteer. This one was the best one yet.

A Revelation

The biggest thing to come out of this week for me was looking inward. Watching the student-veterans turn their concepts into business plans got me excited. It made me want to write again.

Not to just write, but to write well and often. I tried other things. Going back to school for a Computer Technology degree was a mistake.

I knew it was a bad fit after the first two weeks. I only did the homework, just barely. I never took off. I never spent extra time in the material. Going to school was a job. I punched a clock, but there was no real passion.

It was not like writing. I love to write. It’s something I do even when I am not aware of it. I’m always turning new material over in my head. I’m a constant scribbler.

I’ve always been a reader. I’ve only dabbled in writing in the past few years. I always knew it was what I wanted to do. Now I know it’s what I need to do.

The idea of being able to express thoughts, feelings and pictures in words excites me. Using that gift to share experiences and change someone’s life for the better is a vocation.

Being a writer is what I was born to do.

The World Boiled Down

I am obsessed with writers and writing. I am not a literary fanatic, but I do have one writer I really admire, it’s Ernest Hemingway. Actually, truth be told, I am obsessed with Hemingway.

I am retyping his stories. I do this to practice writing. This idea is an old model of apprenticeship in the arts. In the Renaissance aspiring painters copied great works of art. Classical musicians work with other composers’ works to rework themes.

I love Hemingway’s style. His prose is uncomplicated and clean. He uses plain grammar and easy language to explore complex themes. Short, rhythmic sentences that concentrate on action are his trademark.

To make this work you have to be an obsessive reviser. It’s a careful process of selecting only the necessary elements of a story. Everything else burns away. The idea is to unclutter your prose to make it direct and easy to read.

Some of it sneaks into my emails and everyday speech: That is, your bed, and it is a good bed. To be happy you must make the bed well. Or: Muna made meatloaf last night. The meatloaf was good, but better with mash potatoes. It was good, but when it is gone the not-having meatloaf will be tragic. The mash potatoes will be alone, waiting to be eaten, alone.

Lol, you get the idea.

Learning from the Master

It really grows on you. Above my writing place I have a picture of Papa at his typewriter.

I use a laptop. Using my hunt-and-peck speed I feel the sentences form. I try to feel the sentences as Hemingway wrote them. Like a carpenter feeling out a piece of unfinished wood, I lovingly pass my mind over his words.

I concentrate on the shift in tone or focus. As I finish each page I take a thoughtful pause and I read what I typed. I know this seems ridiculous or maybe obsessive, but I am happy.

I think of learning to dance or to cook. You practice until it comes naturally, until you form instincts they were trained from devotion. The result is freedom and happiness- two things that eluded me until I started writing.

The Hemingway Way

I’ve decided to devote myself to writing and to writing to like Hemingway. I’ve pulled out all the stops. I’ve dusted off all my books on writing as a craft. I’ve signed up for writing classes at the local community center.

I’ve joined a writer’s group. We meet once a week to discuss writing. We read and critique each other’s work.

I’ve decided to stop the reasons and the distractions. I cobbled together everything I could think of to make myself a happy and productive writer.

I’m going to dive underneath my mind’s noise. I am going into the deep unlit shafts of my memory to be the writer I was born to be. Hemingway will be my guide.

I am going to strip away my macho façade of the wounded veteran and explore my sensitive and vulnerable mind. A mind of pain, joy and memory. A mind full of contradictions.

I am going to turn the spotlight on myself. I am going to explore myself and expose all my fears, my strengths. I am going to look at my old, ugly warts through writing. I am going to take my sentimentality, romantic notions of manhood, sympathy and empathy and turn it inwards.

I want my readers to feel my emotions, for the action in my writing to give them excitement, so they can see and feel what I did.

I felt pain, love and joy. I’ve been to exotic, faraway lands. I am good friends with amazing people. I have lived times others may say were best forgotten. I have cried, felt pain and hoped.

I am married to the most extraordinary person I know. I love her more than anyone I’ve ever known.

My goal in the Hemingway Project is direct, personal writing that is full of rich imagery. I have lots of material.

Stephen King said this about writing, “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

Let’s get happy together, let’s write!