Mental Health Monday: The Strange Pull of What You Really Love



Earnest Hemingway was ill and unable to attend the banquet where he would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He penned a few words which were read at the banquet in his absence. Today I am struck by these:

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

A dear friend and mentor, Jere Hoar, has been after me for several years to embrace the loneliness that good writing requires and quit spending so much time on social media and writing events. He continues to fail in his efforts, as I run with abandon to these escapes from the despair that the lonely work of writing can bring down on my soul. Having just finished helping direct a writing conference, I’ve already organized a Memphis writers gathering (to be hosted by Memphis artist and writer, Suzanne Henley) this Wednesday night. I only hope that while such events surely “palliate the writer’s loneliness” they don’t also cause his work to deteriorate, as Hemingway suggests.

But recently—really just over the past few days—I’ve been reconsidering Jere’s words, especially in light of Hemingway’s. Because I find that when I immerse myself in my work and shun the pain of loneliness, sometimes I can make art. And when I do, the satisfaction is immense. And just a small taste of that satisfaction can strengthen my resolve to keep moving towards the art at whatever personal cost. As Rumi says:



3 thoughts on “Mental Health Monday: The Strange Pull of What You Really Love”

  1. thank you again for your inspiring words, Susan. I am troubled by Hemingway’s words … but knowing his history am not at all surprised. He was a troubled man in many ways, as many writers are. I get “peopled out” in gatherings; but on the other hand, I need them to help me continue to affirm who I really am, an artist. I’ve recently discovered a great French Canadian (from Montreal) writer from the 40’s & 50’s. Her work has been translated and you can find old copies of her novels here and there. Her words are imprinted on the Canadian $20 dollar bill: “Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?”
    Extreme introvert that I am, I value my friendships with other artists/writers because there is a connection, a knowing, that we do not even need to discuss. They understand me and I them — that we live and move and have our being in an abstract world — in a way that non-artists cannot.

    1. I, too, am troubled by Hemingway’s words, and he was, as you say, a troubled person. But I think I keep being drawn to troubled artists for a reason. It’s not that they lift me up… it’s that I find some kind of comfort in the familiarity of their darkness. Probably not a good thing, but that’s where I am.

      I just Googled Gabrielle Roy’s book, The Tin Flute, and read a couple of reviews on Goodreads. Her quote is inspirational, but somehow I’m not drawn to this novel.

      But I AM drawn to you, my dear friend. See you tomorrow night! THANKS always, for reading and commenting.

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