I was having a conversation with an online friend yesterday. He was in another of his drunken philosophical moods, and was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t spend a day in Hemingway’s shoes. Hemingway is always the guy writers think of as the successful one — the super manly man they all want to be. Why? I don’t understand it. Every time I read Hemingway or something about him, I feel a sense of relief that I never had to live his terrible life or have any sort of interaction with him.
I commented on my friend’s post, and realized that some of the advice I was writing there was to myself. So, lest it get swept away in the ocean that is the comments section on social media, I’m putting it here for posterity.
It’s always nice to think of the “success” of someone like Hemingway, until you realize that he had electro-shock therapy to try to cure his crippling depression, ended up losing all his memories, and then killed himself by putting a gun in his mouth.
Maybe that’s something you have in common — that you have to deal with the way mental illness affects you and your writing (Hemingway’s father committed suicide, as did his brother and his sister). And maybe you even medicate in the same way, with alcohol. So the question is, are you going to let it destroy you the same way it destroyed him?
To be honest, I think your decision to care for your son is better than the legacy of brokenness Hemingway left for his descendents.
And yes, fate is cruel and defies even our most passionate attempts to get out of its entanglements. The greatest power we have against it is to make peace within our own lives.