Hemingway said that talking about writing kills it. “A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”
What he meant by that, in part, was that once a thought is said (or written) it should not be repeated, for it would lose its oomph. Additionally, he wanted to leave interpretation of his work to the reader.
I sort of agree with him. Talking about writing can be fun, but it’s dangerous, in the same way talking about yoga or nature or anything else that takes you to some sort of spiritual place can be detrimental to its magical powers. Which is hard to comprehend; why not talk about that which you love?
Holding Tinkerbell hostage
When someone asks me questions about my writing life, I’m okay with answering the questions at a superficial level. I don’t typically go into how writing fulfills me on a personal level, however, in part because that requires a great deal of effort to come up with the right words to explain it (and as a writer, I’m better at writing my thoughts than thinking on my feet). But also, revealing that part of me opens up a possibility that the magic will disappear, like letting Tinkerbell escape from her jar. Talking about it would, as Hemingway said, kill it.
Throwing it back in the water
I love meeting with book clubs and other readers to talk about my books: the inspiration, the process, the choices I make. If a book club invites me in, I’ll even answer some of the more personal questions. But when they begin to ask questions about why characters did what they did, or what might happen after the story ends, especially if I’ve intentionally left it unresolved, I often throw the question back in the water and let them wrestle with it. Like Hemingway, I prefer to leave some of the psychological interpretation and imagination to my readers.
Sometimes, people want to talk with me about their writing experiences; usually I’m uber enthused to listen. And of course when you get a group of writers together, whether online or in person, talking about writing cannot be avoided. (I’m pretty sure Hemingway, Joyce, Stein and Pound talked about writing now and then.) But once in a while, someone will cross my path with an unsolicited soliloquy about all things writing, and it’s immediately obvious it will be hazardous to my literary health if I let it go on. It’s as though I were hiking through a forest with Thoreau, inhaling the sweet fragrance of nature, and we’re suddenly bombarded with a paintball zealot. Talk about killing the moment. If you’re one of those types, please take note. (And maybe take a Xanax, too.)
But if I love writing so much, why not talk about it?
Because writing happens to be one of the paths I take toward personal growth, contemplation, and spiritual grounding, as it is for many. Maya Angelou said, “There’s a place in you that you must keep inviolate…you have to have a place where you just say ‘stop it, back up.’” There are other paths I sometimes take, too, that I need to protect. So I’m blabbering on about this because, if we’re ever in conversation and I hold out my hand and say, “stop it,” you will know that I’m not taking offense at what you said, or that I don’t love you. I am just protecting that sacred part of my self. And I’m also saying all this to remind you, my dear reader, that you also have the right—even the obligation—to protect that special place in your heart, too.