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The Hemingway Method

I’m writing this week about the start of the Elevation Tour and how we covered it — with live updates on the @U2 homepage as the band played in Miami. But if you were to open up the Google Doc with my book’s manuscript and scroll to the final page of written words, you’d find something else. You’d find this bullet list:

  • Email to Willie re: Steinkamp article
  • Launch of OTR
  • Italy lyrics issue

Those are the next three things I expect to write about. I could’ve written about them earlier this week when I had all kinds of good energy and writing momentum, but I’ve found that the writing process is much better when I save things for the next session.

I didn’t know it until very recently, but I’ve been using the Hemingway Method of writing. It’s described in this quote from a time when Hemingway was sharing advice with a young writer:

“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time. Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop.”

Soon as I read that quote, I was like … “yes! That’s exactly what I’ve found as I write this book.”

There was an occasion about a month ago when I pumped myself dry. I wrote too much in one day or maybe one weekend. When I was done, I found myself in a bind. “What do I write about next? Where should the book go from here?” I stopped writing and didn’t get back to the book for probably two weeks.

So now, as I write, I always try to have a short bullet list at the end of the manuscript with guideposts for what’s immediately ahead. It’s been a great technique and has helped me keep the momentum going each time I start typing.

Thanks a bunch, Hemingway.

(Photo by karlnorling via Creative Commons)

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