Writing Tip: Starting fresh

Sep 23, 2013 | Better Writing

The year was 1922. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley were living in Paris. Up to that point, Hemingway hadn’t been able to publish any of the fiction he had written. He made his living by working as a reporter for the Toronto Star.

The Star sent him to Switzerland on assignment, where he met the editor Lincoln Steffens. Steffens was impressed with what he saw of Hemingway’s journalism and asked to see some of his fiction. Hemingway contacted Hadley and asked her to bring his manuscripts to Switzerland so Steffens could see them.

Hadley carefully packed everything, manuscripts, carbons, even some of Hemingway’s notes, in a suitcase and caught the train to meet Ernest. She stepped off the train for a moment to buy a mineral water. When returned the suitcase and all of Hemingway’s fiction, was gone.

Hemingway would later call those writing his juvenilia. We don’t know what they were like, but when he started writing again, the prose was lean and clean, the way an experienced newspaper reporter would write.

If he still had those manuscripts, Hemingway probably would have tried to revise them to make them better. He would have put time and effort into marketing them. Without them he could start new and fresh, but now as an experienced writer.

Sometimes starting over is the right choice for a blog post, an article, or even a book. If you do that, I suggest you write without even looking at what you wrote earlier. That way you won’t taint your thinking with your older phrases. Just trust your brain to remember the key points and go.

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