HUBRIS, HEALTH, HEMINGWAY AND SIMENON

annunciation. jpeg

Good morning from Nepal

When you’re giving your copy away, you can be dreamy and inaccurate.  (I’ve done it.) When you’re selling your words, establishing yourself in a business that’s writhing with talent, you’d better be learned, witty and realistic.

Hemingway tells a story in A Moveable Feast.  He overheard a book-seller:  “When establishing the worth of a book, first there are the pictures.  Then the binding, and the paper…”  Literary worth wasn’t part of the conversation.

In a 2010 Paris Review interview Georges Simenon said that when writing commercial fiction you must stop being too literary.

 “You know, you have a beautiful sentence—cut it. Every time I find such a thing in one of my novels it is to be cut.”  The links: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/tag/georges-simenon/ and http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5020/the-art-of-fiction-no-9-georges-simenon.

Hubris should be the most important word in our vocabularies.

I’ll be hubristic right now.  I won’t search an online dictionary for the meaning, but will tell you what my Greek professor said it meant (in 1967):  pride against the gods; excessive pride that leads to disaster.

For writers, that means pride in our beautifully crafted sentences, perfect punctuation and skillful use of literary devices; even pride in our poverty (‘nobody reads beautiful prose any more’).  I grant you, it takes detachment, discipline and a lot of laughs to get through all this. 

Learn this or die!  Know when you’re copping out. When you spend more time writing junk than thinking, writing and reading decent stuff.

 But know when hubris is in control.  Here things that work for me.   By the way, I do not advocate a life saturated with Facebook .  I enjoy TS Eliot, so I read him.  I love Renaissance painting, so I look at it, even write fan mail to curators in Sweden so I can discuss it.  Etc.

Back to succeeding in the market place, as it is.

  • Read your mss with the eyes of an editorial assistant who has a mortgage, 2 kids, an addiction to fine wine and Needs That Paycheck.  
  • Read a blog by one of today’s hyper-talented out of work writers.  They’re preparing for come-backs, too….  

Llisten to the winners and learn how to write again. Disregard your hubris.  I don’t read – or write — thrillers or mysteries, but Simenon had excellent advice, and I pay attention.

Health:  KTM’s furor is inconvenient when you’re trying to run.  The third world’s not as pastoral as it once was, either.  

Therefore, I do 3 cardio dance videos each morning, from 6-6:45, in the hotel garden.  Later I do qi gong, yoga and lift weights/do tubes.  Seems clear to me that Nepal survives because of mysticism and the indigenous peoples’ decency.  To catch their vibes, I visit a local Newari Buddhist temple every day or so (it also reminds me of the nature worship I grew up with). 

I’m sure you do more, know more, and I hope you’ll send along your thoughts.

Like a 29-year old said to me last month, over masala chiya (Nepali spice tea), “We have to save ourselves.”

The annunciation painting. Its content reminds me of myself, begging (my muse? Mahankal? Yeats? You?) for guidance.

Thank you for all your cards and notes.  Write today!  Send in a good strong query!

Mary Ann Davis, in Kathmandu, Nepal

 

 

 

 

 

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