Finding Hemingway

I have wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old, walking around the house with my Lisa Frank (don’t hate!) spiral notebook and matching pencil, interviewing family and friends like some crazy event had occurred that needed to be reported. As I grew older, I began writing short stories about young heroines and their adventures overseas. I had only taken trips to the beach and mountains with my family and I yearned to travel to faraway, exotic places. I wasn’t an athlete and had about zero coordination, so I didn’t join in neighborhood touch football games or baseball behind the local church. I wanted so badly to be a tomboy but that just wasn’t me.

I was a dreamer. I liked sitting under the big dogwood tree in our yard, passing lazy summer afternoons writing tales of make-believe. I was by no means an introvert. I loved being around people and talking and telling stories. I think the only time I was ever quiet was when I was writing. It was just something I kept private. It was mine and I didn’t want to share it.

I filled notebook after notebook with poems and stories. I kept a notebook and pen by my bed because I would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a story that I’d always end up writing later. They weren’t all good, but looking back I’m still proud of my younger self. As much as I enjoyed writing, I didn’t enjoy English class until high school. I was always a math geek. My dad thought I’d become an engineer or some crazy math aficionado. Then I found Hemingway. When I took my first creative writing class in high school, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories like Ernie himself. I wanted to be able to write a story with a main character that was in search of something, finding life and adventure in France and Spain and Africa…a character who journeyed to the ends of the earth, much like I aspired to. When I finally broke down and admitted to my parents that I wanted to be a writer, my dad’s response was, “So you want to be an alcoholic?” No, Dad, I did not want to be an alcoholic. Despite popular your belief, the two are not synonymous. But, glad you remembered something about Hemingway from high school English. He was also not thrilled when I declared Creative Writing as my major at an expensive private college. He eventually came around.

My Hemingway Collection

When I studied for a semester in Paris, I saw the city as Hemingway had seen it. I didn’t pay attention to the traffic, smog, daily rainstorms, or even the student protesters taking over the metro and Quartier Latin (I lived there during the student protests over the contrat première embauche, or CPE, employment contracts in spring 2006). I would frequent the expatriate favorite, Shakespeare & Co., and run my fingers across the old books as I imagined Hemingway had done 80 years before. I read A Moveable Feast at the Champ de Mars one surprisingly warm afternoon in April, which happened to be my 21st birthday and one I’ll never forget. I would jokingly refer to the memoir every afternoon it rained, citing the false spring to which he often referred. I was content taking occasional walks alone with my dear friend whom I’d never met, yet felt deeply akin to. It was the city as I had romanticized it, and, although I lived in a different generation, for those four short months I felt like an expatriate, trying daily to put her experience into words, all the while knowing no one would ever see it as she had.

The travel memoir I crafted after my time in Paris has been edited and re-edited a few times a year since then, but never published. I’ve never even submitted a chapter to any sort of publication. It includes so much of myself that I’ve never been able to share. I’ve only been published (if you can call it that) a handful of times in my college newspaper and the local paper in my small town, but seeing my article (and name!) on the front page that very first time is something I’ll never forget. My mom was so excited that she bought 10 copies and told all of her coworkers her daughter was a published writer. My dad also told me he was proud of me, which was a long way from his ‘alcoholic’ comment years earlier. Sadly, I haven’t written much else the past few years. At first I needed a break from it after practically writing a novel in college. After time passed, it became difficult to find the time. It’s funny, I never thought I would tire of writing or use silly excuses not to do it. The thing about passions, though, is that you always find a way back to them.

My writing desk and travel memoir

I recently received a picture message from a childhood friend and fellow blogger, also named Kristin, who found an old poem she had written when we were in 8th grade. Apparently I had read it and given her feedback, because I had added a line in another color ink and signed my name beside it. We used to love sharing our stories and poems with each other. If you’re a writer, you know sharing your work with someone else takes a good amount of trust. You trust that they’ll give you positive, honest feedback without making you feel like a failure. You also trust that they won’t go posting your work on bathroom stalls or social media sites. To this day, she is the only person I’ve ever let read from my notebooks. Her message reminded me of how much I used to love writing and how it was my safe place and my place of unforeseen adventure. One of my reasons for starting this blog was to rekindle my love of writing. The flame has been relit and I hope it doesn’t stop burning.

My challenge for myself this week is to brainstorm an idea for a story and see where it takes me. Hopefully, Across the River and Into the Trees, my latest read by Hemingway, will serve as my inspiration. After all, he’s always been my muse.

Will you join me? Even if you’re not a writer, take a few minutes (or hours, if you’re lucky enough to have that much free time) this week and jot down an idea for a story you’ve always wanted to tell. Even if you think it’s terrible, just do it. It may never be published, but you’ll have brought a little more creativity into your life. Find a little inspiration and you never know, you just might catch the bug.

p.s. If you want any advice or feedback, I’m an unbiased, trustworthy reader. (I promise I’ll be positive) 😉

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