A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing

owl and moon

There is already a story here

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. A writer who appreciates the seriousness of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally educated, cultured or well-bred is merely a popinjay. And this too remember; a serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.

by Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961)
from Death in the Afternoon (1932)
image – Muffet

A Truth Chant

I love, love love this owl image. I think it looks like it knows its own story, eons of story. Can you tell that the artist is a writer?

“The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water” was going to be the quote from this excerpt. I like this bit, too: “the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.” Today, this part spoke to me the loudest: “A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.”

Read each line of this excerpt and notice how each would have a different meaning on its own. There is a back-and-forth rhythm, like waves lapping against a boat. It is OK to omit, but not to hide. It is OK for a writer to write to their own truth, to believe in the story, but not to take themselves too seriously.

| More

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.