The great Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite old-time authors. His economical prose, his searing portraits of the human condition’s darker side, his drink recipes; they’re all things I truly enjoy. One of the biggest myths surrounding his near-legend is that he, being the alcoholic he was, drank while writing his masterpieces. This was debunked by none other than the man himself in an interview during his lifetime (as opposed to an interview he held after his lifetime). Not only did he firmly reject the rumor, but he rejected the concept altogether: when told his peer Faulkner did so, he dismissively stated he could tell while reading Faulkner’s work when he’d had his first drink. Hemingway loved his craft with a devoted passion, and abstained from drink or any other potential distraction until his day’s work of word crafting was finished to his satisfaction, or until he realized he could not wring any more out of his mind. It’s an admirable thing to have that discipline, and its something we should strive to copy as stringently as we might copy some of the writing methods he developed.
Anyhoo, I’m two drinks in as I write this post.
I will say, I don’t drink while I write. I might scrawl some ideas down–honestly, taking a look at a section that’s troubling me with a slight buzz does tend to lead to insights and breakthroughs–but I’ll stick by Hemingway’s proscription to have nary a drop of booze in my system when writing actual words meant to be read (for my stories, anyways; again, there’s several drops in me right now). Now if I could figure out the rest of the distractions.
Hemingway had the pleasure of being able to write for a living, so the concept of a ‘day job’ didn’t factor in once he was established. Obviously bills and making the money required to pay said bills can’t be avoided. And while it sounds like he wasn’t a bad father, I do wish to be a better husband than he was (a few times over). Buuut I’m pretty sure I allow other distractions that aren’t as necessary.
For sure one major distraction right now is my obsession with the Ukraine war. I can’t help but find myself checking to see if the major cities still stand, if Belarus hasn’t overthrown it’s dictator (or Russia theirs, although that one for now is far more unlikely), and if Volodymyr Zelenskyy still lives.
Zelenskyy. Man. There are issues with the Ukraine crisis that are being woefully unreported, namely the treatment of Africans and other POC trying to escape, or the real fact that there is a whole division in Eastern Ukraine that does actually have a Nazi problem (not that Ukraine, led by the Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors, has one on the whole anymore than other countries–including Russia itself), but it is hard not to have a crazy level of respect for this guy. His backstory to where he’s at now is this: Stephen Colbert becomes President, and then evolves into a historical figure of nearly incomparable stature while facing down one of our nation’s greatest crises, all at the immense personal risk faced by his fellow trapped citizens and military… by choice. I don’t agree with all of his political leanings as by all accounts he’s a neoliberal, but I simply cannot deny that the man is an actual leader, an actual servant of his people. It’s sad to know that, on a global scale, there are far more Putins out there than there are Zelenskyys.
(Is drinking while writing the reason every paragraph here features a secondary thought within ellipses?)
My hope aside from Ukraine’s triumph (Slava Ukraini!) is that we stop and take a global look at conflict. Speaking of world leaders, and speaking of media bias and blindness, Ukraine may have center stage but it’s far from the only crisis/war out there. Israel has cracked down on Palestinians again. Afghanistan has people selling their kidneys to afford food. Syria is still Syria; and that’s largely because of Russia too! We stare enraptured at Ukraine but can’t locate Yemen, who has faced the same level of assault for years, on a map.
Not to be a media apologist but I do get on some level why Ukraine is such a focus right now. The parallels between this and the start of World War II are eerie. There is a risk this conflict expands exponentially, with a nuclear conflict probably closer to reality than it has been in my entire lifetime. It’s human nature to worry more about things that could impact you and your family, and this conflict has the potential (albeit, still a slim one) of leading to nukes being lobbed across the ocean at us. (I live near enough to MacDill Air Force base that if the worst were to occur, I’d be in an at-risk area.)
But assuming the worst does not come to pass, we need to collectively open our eyes to the world around us. Not just at conflicts in Europe, not just at conflicts possibly involving superpowers clashing, but to understand that life is life and death is death and that if we consider Ukraine a tragedy–which it is–then so is Yemen, so is Somalia, so is Syria, and so on and so forth. If we’re outraged that Russia has responded to a perceived slight with brutal and deadly force–and we should be–then we should hold our leaders, and other world leaders be they allies or enemies, to the same standard. (Hey, I completed a paragraph without a secondary thought in ellipses!) (Aw, dammit.)
I’m not a person who believes that war can be erased. And I’m not naïve enough to believe all conflicts can be resolved by chatting or passing out flowers. There are Putins out there, and when they cross a line, force is all they will respect. But we stretch that excuse to every possible end point, to justify conflicts all over the world, and that needs to stop.
So, yeah, let’s focus past Ukraine–while still giving her our support and attention–to the other numerous victims out there. We can’t stop something we don’t know anything about.
(That won’t help with the distractions from writing though, will it?)
Time to go pour another drink. Til next time.