Hemingway’s imaginal life

July 2, 2011, makes 50 years since Ernest Hemingway made his escape from the prison his body and life had become. His suicide, which put an end to his physical life, did not put an end to him. Hemingway lives, and not only in the sense that his memory and his brain children — his books and stories — are as  alive in us as ever. This is true, but beyond that, he lives! Regardless whether he thought there was such a thing as an immortal life, he is now in the midst of it, and quite happily.

In  commemoration of the greatest writer of the 20th century, I thought I’d pass along this that I received  from him by means of Intuitive Linked Communication (ILC) a couple of years ago. (As this had to pass through my mind to be expressed, you must not expect it to come out sounding as it would if he had been in the flesh to extensively revise and polish it. Still, nice to have it.) Hemingway, from his new perspective, describes what it was like to write from the imaginal world while firmly within the physical.

Hemingway on writing

Day after day I wrote, and this is how it is. You wake up early in the morning and you get up and you get going. You’re sitting there and maybe it’s coffee like you use or tea — I liked tea — and it’s paper and pencil and a pencil sharpener, and you’re living in your mind for all those hours.

It isn’t like you don’t know you’re in a room, writing. It’s more like a kid who’s sitting in a cardboard box and he knows it’s a cardboard box but he also knows it’s a boat, or an airplane, or a stagecoach. You’re sitting there, writing, or staring at the wall or out the window — and at the same time you’re someplace else, living another life, feeling a different season’s sun, maybe out in the Gulf fishing with Santiago, or just driving down an old road you loved, or one you’d made up. And you loved that bilocation feeling, without even thinking about it. In fact, if you did think about it, you’d probably think about it wrong, because you’d be wishing you were really there — wherever you were writing about — when what you really wanted was what you had — being here and there, living it, writing it.

And then there was a whole different set of exercises, and satisfactions, when you looked at the way you’d described something you remembered, or something you’d made up and experienced in your mind, or something that was remembered and then reworked, or something that started out looking like it was made up but then got hooked into something from the life you’d lived. And you’d look at the words, feeling for the soft spots that had to be taken out, looking for the blank places where the words had gone dead on you, looking for the things that you’d said that were good in themselves but didn’t quite belong. And you’d cross out, or you’d move, or you’d reword, and maybe you’d re-read it and it still wouldn’t be right and you have to do it again, more probing, more moving around, more listening to the echoes, listening for the dull thud instead of the bell-metal ringing. And all this exercising of skill from another dimension — because it couldn’t be done by logic — left you just as cold-gloating satisfied as anything you could do in life.

And you’d come out from there at noon, or whenever your schedule called for, or maybe earlier or later depending on how your work was going, and it was turning the key on that part of your life, and you were free to be with another person, and to enjoy pleasures simple and complicated, expensive and cheap and free, pleasures strenuous or contemplative, athletic or aesthetic or gastronomic or piscatory or anything. And underneath all the pleasure — even just reading, if that’s what you were doing, even just a mid-day nap, if that’s what you wanted — underneath it all was the morning’s writing, the long immersion into that active-receptive country that only another artist could experience. And the days went by, silent, providing no anecdotes or additions to The Hemingway Myth, not memorable in any way except perhaps eventually in whatever manuscript they produced — and they were incomparably, indescribably sweet.

Biographers don’t really convey that. They may sense it — after all, they are artists themselves — but it doesn’t lend itself to long description, because nothing much happens externally, and if they put in a few paragraphs like these, indicating the flavor and texture of such a part of a life, after all they can’t keep repeating it every so often chapter by chapter, but the artist experiences it, day by incomparable routine day, and his life is a delight in those times no matter how his art makes him sweat.

And then, there’s another thing to be said. To have that deeply satisfying routine interrupted, or threatened, is almost more than you can bear, especially if for stupid reasons but even if for the best. What movie-rights deal is going to make up for costing you that quiet ecstasy, even if only for a few days? What’s it worth to have to trade living in two worlds for business dealings, or politics, or family troubles, or your own illness or incapacity to work for some reason? It’s awful, and there’s no way around it.

They say, “he’s in a good mood, because his writing is going well,” and they just don’t really have any idea what they’re talking about. Even if they’ve experienced something like it, it doesn’t occur to them in such a way that they can translate it to others. Writing as an out-of-body experience! That’s what you should call it.

Another aspect, come to think of it. When you’re spending time in that invented world, that land of imagination, of imaging, you don’t want to leave it and return to the single-vision world. That’s like leaving the world of alcohol-induced gaiety or clarity or let’s just say sparkle and living in a dishwater-flat emotional nothing. But if you stay drunk you lose it all, and if you were to stay in that double-image land your mind half-created, half-entered, it would go dead on you and you couldn’t write out of it and then you couldn’t even visit. There’s a cruelty to the way life is organized. You can get by on the level easily enough, maybe — “life at half speed,” Conrad’s character says — but if you get highs you’re going to get lows, and an artist gets highs. First he gets them from that territory he goes to while he is practicing his art, and then maybe he gets his highs from alcohol or cocaine, and he doesn’t realize maybe that what he’s doing is trying to drink away or drug away his loneliness for that for country. And of course I don’t know about women artists but it’s common enough for men to find that same echo in sex, especially sex with women he loves. There’s a lot of crap written about sex — I wrote my share of it — but there’s something there regardless, and if you haven’t experienced it there’s no telling you, and if you have, there’s no telling you. All I can say is what I’m talking about is entirely involved in romance, not just fornication. So — but, enough.

In the mornings, I wrote and for the rest of the day, and in the evenings, and in the night, I did other things, and so I kept the balance, and in those times, whenever and wherever they came, life was clear satisfying contentment. Biographers miss all that, because it isn’t easily communicated, and would need to be repeated every chapter.

3 thoughts on “Hemingway’s imaginal life

  1. Ahhh……I just shared my morning cup of tea with Frank and Ernest. It was like a very special breath of fresh air….. helping to “flesh out” the experience of observing/living with the sparrows feeding each other and fighting each other at the feeder outside my window. Thanks!

  2. thanks for this Frank. Would love to hear how Hemingway experiences creativity and the imaginative projection involved now. Does he find life in the afterlife worth writing about?

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