I have been thinking about Ernest Hemingway, largely because of the hilarious scene in The Silver Linings Playbook, which I watched with my girls the other night. This is Pearlie’s favorite movie (currently) so I’ve watched it a few times, once while I was teaching Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms last spring.
Then I came across this quote on Jon Winokaur’s Advice to Writers blog.
When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice. When you’re in town stand outside the theatre and see how the people differ in the way they get out of taxis or motor cars. There are a thousand ways to practice. And always think of other people.
This is true not just for writers, by the way. Pay attention. Listen.
It’s also much harder to do than one might think. I’m pretty sure that was as true for Hemingway as it is for the rest of us.
Matthew Quick’s novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, is nothing like the movie, in my humble opinion, but well worth reading on its own merits.