Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit at the typewriter and bleed.” I should be the last to say he was wrong. Further, he can say nothing about it whether or not I agree. All that should be said is that empty pages waiting for writing are white for a reason: you cannot hide the blood.
It does not matter, either, that Hemingway used a typewriter. My bleeding is done on a computer monitor; also white. Others have successfully bled directly from a pen onto a white field. Some have done it grotesquely with their withdrawn blood. It does bleed that seriously, doesn’t it, which is why the question is begged: why should writers bleed and how is it done?
I am not going to tell you how to write; I’m not sufficiently skilled to be that mentor. Others have attempted it and some even think they are successful, but I have a suspicion that it is different for each of us. I am an old man, but I do not fish in that sea and would not presume. However, drawing upon my experience as an old man, I will tell you that on the subject of bleeding, the why and how are simple.
Once, a character in one of my novels came to me in a dream and told me, quite outside of his character and plot, “With simplicity, everything is important.” I was stunned to silence and awakened with stark clarity that he was right. So, strip away the desk and the chair. Take away the notepad, the typewriter, the computer, the pen and printer. The hell with it; take away the floor and the ceiling and walls while you are at it. These are all impediments and will just get in the way.
If you are going to bleed, if you are going to write to be seen, you are going to have to be as naked and innocent as when you were born, so take away your inhibitions, your accomplishments and your sins. For heaven’s sake, do not apologize; in fifteen minutes, no one will care.
You have to be naked and innocent, but that does not mean you are without experience. And whether that experience is real or vicarious, in the end, the mind and heart really do not make a distinction, do they? Now, what do you have left to work your magic? You have your mind and heart. That is a good place to begin. Both are pumps and both will push the blood.
Why we bleed is going to be short and sweet: because we are human and we are alive. If you are dead, your stories are for someone else. To our knowledge, the rest of the animal kingdom – and let us not omit plants – keep their thoughts to themselves, but what stories they might tell! Someday, they will do just that and we had better show some respect. Their blood always has been and ever will be more innocent and profound.
How to bleed is just as simple. Of course, you have a book in you. Everyone does, so that is no great distinction. But, just as with another great idiom that you must break some eggs to make an omelet, in order to bleed, we must cut a vessel. This is figurative, of course; we took away the blade, too, in our preparation.
If it were that easy, why are there not more writers? This, too, is simple: most people are too inhibited to bleed. They are unwilling to reveal their mind and heart. It is a malady of mistrust. It is too simple.
If you have ever watched a movie and were more involved in how you might have envisioned the scenes, then you should be bleeding rather than offering accolades to someone else. Vampires come to mind, but that takes us off point. We must dispel inhibitions.
We were told when we began writing that we must not tell the story; we must show the story. The only way to do that is to cut the vessel and let the blood out. Don’t be surprised if it comes out yellow or green. It is the stuff of imagination, after all. Damn the dam; it was meant to flow uninhibited. You are naked, remember? Hemingway was right; that is all there is to it. Bleed and then write that I may see you.
About Richard L Cheney
I am a writer and certified copyeditor and proofreader with over forty years’ expertise in writing and editing fiction, non-fiction, blogs, technical and poetry. I have an industrial design degree with over thirty years experience in lean manufacturing quality engineering and management. I am a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. My strength is in knowing how important it is to write and edit to tell a story with simplicity. Writing must tell who you are and what you do. Editing must let every word have strength with simplicity.