The Night, Lonliness, Death & The Soul Of A Writer

Hemingway truely said it unlike anyone else has or ever will...

"If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."

"I know the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of night can not be explained in the day, because they do not then exist"

"and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their lonliness has started."

-A Farewell To Arms, 1929

In the Summer Issue of The Paris Review Norman Mailer comments on Hemingway and what writing takes from the soul...

I came up with a thesis: Hemingway had learned early in life that the closer he came to daring death the healthier it was for him. He saw that as the great medicine, to dare to engage in a nearness to death. And so I had this notion that night after night when he was alone, after he said goodnight to Mary, Hemingway would go to his bedroom and he'd put his thumb on the shotgun trigger a little bit, and-trembling, shaking-he'd try to see how close he could come without having the thing go off. On the final night he went too far. That to me made more sense than him just deciding to blow it all to bits. However, it's nothing but a theory. The fact of the matter is that Hemingway committed suicide.

Might it be said, in any event, that writing is a sort of self-annihilation?

It uses you profoundly. There's simply less of you after you finish a book, which is why writers can be so absolutely enraged at cruel criticisms that they feel are unfair. We feel we have killed ourselves once writing the book, and now they are seeking to kill us again for too little. Gary Gilmore once remarked, "Padre, there's nothing fair." And I've used that over and over again. Yet if you're writing a good novel then you're being an explorer-you're getting into something where you don't know the end, where the end is not given. There's a mixture of dread and excitement that keeps you going. To my mind, it's not worth writing a novel unless you're tackling something where your chances of success are open. You can fail. You're gambling with your psychic reserves. It's as if you were the general of an army of one, and this general can really drive that army into a cul-de-sac.