“So you really think this is going to work?” I asked hesitantly as I stared around the room at the pentagrams and astrological bullshit that covered the walls.
“Well of course it will work, Mr. Warner. As I told you when we first spoke on the phone, I have done this successfully numerous times before.”
“Yeah, but, you know, can you really communicate with the dead? I mean I know it says on your sign, Madame Gemini, Psychic Medium, but I’ve always kind of figured all you palm-reader types were just like the old-time snake-oil salespeople.”
“Watch and learn Mr. Warner… and be amazed by the magic of Madame Gemini. We will not only communicate with him, but in a few moments he will be here sitting at this table with us and you’ll be able to talk to him about this blogging assignment that you have been asked to complete.”
“Yeah… ummm… okay… whatever” I stammered. Madame Gemini dimmed the lights and with a match lit five small candles that sat on the points of another pentagram that decorated the center of the table we were sharing. “Let’s get started now Mr. Warner. Please grab hold of my hands, if you would.”
“Uhhh… okay.” I reached across the table, situating my arms between the burning candles and grabbed her hands which felt cold and clammy. Looking at her, I guessed by the gray hair and wrinkled skin, that she must be in her seventies and I could feel the veins pulsing through her frail skin. “Now close your eyes and be very quiet while I recite this spell” she said and she began to speak in a light monotone whisper, a voice that conjured up images of witches and boiling cauldrons.
“Ghost of Ernest Hemingway, we wish to hear from you today. Be it a silent whisper, or the roar of a lion, from the stars of Perseus to the belt of Orion, we ask you to join us now if you are able, please come sit with us here at this table.” Then she paused for a moment. “Now Mr. Warner, clench my hands hard and focus all of your mental energy on channeling Mr. Hemingway… good… good… wonderful.”
With my eyes still closed I heard the muffled sound of the empty chair on the opposite side of the table, moving slightly, as it’s feet scraped the old wooden floor. “Now, Mr. Warner, slowly open your eyes” I heard from across the table. I expected to see nothing more than the same empty chair that had been sitting there a few moments earlier. But to my stunned amazement, there he sat, Ernest Hemingway, or at least, a ghostly apparition of the great writer, with a graying beard and dressed in what appeared to be his iconic safari style clothing. “Holy crap… it worked!” I blurted. “Dude… it’s Ernest freakin’ Hemingway.”
“Yes, of course it worked” Madame Gemini offered confidently. “Now, Mr. Hemingway probably has a very busy schedule, so please be brief.”
“Yeah, yeah okay… dude, holy crap… Mr. Hemingway, dude how the hell are you? You are my freakin’ hero dude… such a great writer, adventurer, drinker… wow… awesome…thanks for joining us here.”
“Yes, yes, of course young man, but I must ask, what is this word ‘dude’ you keep addressing me with?”
“Yeah… ummm… sorry, it’s just one of those words that people started calling each other back in the nineteen eighties and nineties… it’s two thousand eleven now… I didn’t know if you knew that or not… I just really haven’t given it up like a lot of people…. you know… dude. Anyway, holy shit I can’t believe you are sitting here with us. Awesome! Fucking awesome! Well, anyway, I have some questions I’d like to ask you about a post I have to write for my blog.”
“What the hell are you talking about, man? A post for a blog? I don’t know what any of that means.”
“Well, you see, Mr. Hemingway, a blog is…uhhh… like a personal website where you write stories about stuff… you know, whatever you want to write about, your life, your kids… whatever.”
“Sounds interesting… but a website, what is that? I don’t know that word either?”
Madame Gemini chimed in. “Mr. Warner, remember, Mr. Hemingway died in nineteen sixty one, he doesn’t know about computers and the internet and all of that stuff.”
“Yeah, of course not… you’re right. Let’s just say it’s a place where people can write, kind of like a journal” I explained.
“Okay, I understand. I always loved writing in my journal. By the way, I could use a drink. Madame, do you have anything to drink around here? Like a bottle of wine or something? You know, I drank a lot of wine when I lived in Paris….”
“Holy fucking awesomesauce!” I interrupted. “Dude, you’re a wine drinker? I freakin’ love wine too… though I must admit, I always figured you as a real hard-core drinker… you know, a whiskey and scotch guy.”
“Young man, did you just say awesomesauce? What the hell is awesomesauce?”
“Yeah, just ignore all of that, I just got a little excited…”
“Well… my friend… may I call you… uhhh, what was that word… dude? I drank it all in my time, but let me tell you, wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
“Fuck yeah… sometimes these days it even comes in a box!” I offered. “Madame Gemini do you have some wine we can uncork? You can add it to my invoice.”
“Yes, just one moment” and she left through a beaded doorway into a back room.
“Well, in any case Mr. Hemingway” I began, “what I wanted to talk to you about… see, there’s this writer, another blogger… you know… her name is Renee Schuls-Jacobson… she’s a teacher… and she gave me this assignment and I’m not sure how to tackle it and I thought, you know, if I spoke to you I might be able to get some inspiration. Because she’s a teacher… you know… I feel like I can’t just blow it off… you know? Do you know who Renee is? She’s pretty famous in the blog-o-sphere.”
“The what-o-sphere?” he asked.
Madame Gemini entered back into the room. “Remember, Mr. Warner, our guest today has been dead for fifty years” she chimed in again, a touch more impatient this time. “Here’s a glass of Merlot for both of you.”
“Oh yeah, right… right… anyway, so this assignment I have is to write something that starts with the sentence ‘writing is like…’ Then I need to pass the assignment on to three other writers. I need some help getting started.”
“Ahhh, my young man… you must know there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. The rest will come.”
“Wow…ummm… bleed? That’s a little freaky and… you know, kind of morbid… but, yeah, I guess so. It’s not always that easy for me though. What did you do when you were struggling to find inspiration?”
“Well, Mr. Warner… I mean, uhhh… Mr. Dude… see there is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly, sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges. I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
“Wowzers… that’s great stuff… so you always kept some ideas brewing?”
“Why yes, of course… a good writer always has the next idea sitting waiting on the back-burner. But you know… I never had to choose a subject – my subject rather chose me.”
“Far out dude… that’s so freakin’ awesome… so you just wrote about things that happened to you in your life?”
“Why yes, of course. But in order to write about life, first you must live it. All my life I looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time. Remember, if a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed. Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it?”
“Yeah dude… totally… yeah… ummm… some of the stuff you say is kind of confusing… but yeah, I totally feel that way… I think? I worry a lot about writing though… you know… the what and why and where of it all… and just finding the time to sit down and write stuff.”
“Mr. Warner, I like to say worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything. Now, in regards to finding free time to write, that is a struggle that all writers face, but you can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love.”
“In love… rock-out dude! Yeah I have a great wife that I love dearly… she’s the bomb!” I exclaimed.
“She’s a bomb?” he asked alarmingly.
“No, no, she’s THE bomb… yeah, don’t worry about all of that, just another one of those… you know… expressions. Anyway, that’s like totally awesome advice… like really profound. You’re right though, no use in worrying about shit all the time. Anyway, back to this writing project… you have any thoughts on what I might write about? If someone asked you to start writing with the words ‘writing is like…’ what would you say?”
“Well… Mr. Warner… uhhh… I mean… Mr. Dude… I mean… oh, whatever, let me tell you something about writing… a serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.”
“Whoa there cowboy… what the hell does that mean? I don’t even know what a popinjay is… but, yeah… ummm… what about my question about what to write this assignment on?”
“I will tell you, uhhh… Mr. Dude … writing to me was always like an adventure. I always tried to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows.”
“Ummm… so writing is like an iceberg?”
“Yes, it’s kind of like an iceberg. Look, the most solid advice for a writer is this, I think. Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
“Ummm… so, writing is like eating and sleeping and… ”
“Yes, yes, young man… now you’re getting it!”
“Uhhh… I am?”
“Yes… yes… and most of all… remember… the first draft of anything is shit.”
“Ummmm… yeah, well… uhhh… most of my writing is like shit… but…”
“Mr. Warner Dude… let me make this clear to you. It is only like shit if you rely on another writer to give you the answers to the questions of your creativity. I think you know what writing is like. Why don’t YOU tell ME what the answer to this little writing assignment is?”
“Well… I don’t know… I guess, uhhh… ” I stammered away again. “I guess writing is like… well, it’s like whatever I want it to be on a particular day, you know, depending on the mood I am in. Some days writing is like work, with a beginning and an end, and a dull, laborious process in the middle. Some days writing is like being a kid again, carefree and jovial like riding a bike with the breeze blowing through my hair and with none of the stress and anxiety of adulthood. Sometimes writing is like being in love, with an intense, emotional attachment to the words on the page. Some days writing is like sex, raw and powerful and exhilarating, and sometimes it is like mourning a death, terribly dark and destructive. Then some days writing is like therapy, spilling my guts out to the world, and sometimes writing is like a personal diary, secret and cryptic and meant for no one but myself. I think writing is like all of those things and many more… and it changes every day.”
“Well done young man” he offered. “I think perhaps you have just answered your own question. “In fact, that sounded like something I might have said. Now, I’d better be going. Besides our bottle of wine is empty. Good day to you Ms. Gemini… and to you Mr. Warner, time to get your typewriter out and get to work.”
“Yeah… uhhh… we don’t use typewriters anymore… oh never mind.”
*Thank you to the real Ernest Hemingway, who may have been, possibly the coolest DUDE ever, for all of those excellent quotes (in blue)!
So if you still haven’t figured out what this post is all about, well, Renee at Lessons from Teachers and Twits wrote this post a few days ago and passed on the assignment to myself and two other writers to take the phrase “Writing is like . . .” and finish it, post it on your blog and then tag three others to do the same. That’s all!
And now the three bloggers that I will pass this onto: Like Renee, I am going to choose three of my guy blogging friends… and the winners are:
Jared at Lick the Fridge: Jared writes about his family and his kids, but often writes about… writing! He is very talented, often hand writes posts in a notebook before typing them… and sometimes he is really freakin’ funny! Plus he is trying to write a post-a-day this month, so here’s one more excuse. Could there be a better choice? So, Jared, get out your pen and paper and a bottle of Tanqueray and tell us what “writing is like…” to you.
Jason at The Mindslam: Jason writes about all kinds of stuff from his life and his family to sports and music and his newly adopted lake house. Sometimes he takes cool photos and shares them with his readers. Plus he has a sweet Bull Mastiff named Ledger. So Jason pour some water on that fire pit, put down the cold beer and get busy! To you “writing is like…?”
And of course, I couldn’t leave out Harry at Dribbling Pensioner. Harry is an older fellow and funny and… well, apparently… dribbling! And he likes to dabble in poetry. So Harry, tell us what “writing is like…” to you.
Later dudes… and dudettes!