Keep going like Hemingway

You could often find Ernest Hemingway drinking

Early evening was reserved for absinthe. Dinner was accompanied by wine. Vodka would follow. And there was always whiskey and soda.

So why do I associate the great man with water?

Because Hemingway once spoke about drawing water from a well. And the full quote taught me something about staying productive while doing creative work.

Here goes:

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

In other (lesser) words, Hemingway would step away from his story while he was still inspired, while he knew what was going to happen next. He could then resume writing the next day without effort.

His habit wasn’t pure artistic superstition

There’s science to back it up. The Zeigarnik effect says it’s easier to remember unfinished tasks than items you’ve ticked off your to-do list.

Anyone who’s worked behind a bar has felt the effect. If a punter demanded a glass of absinthe, a shot of vodka, two fingers of whiskey, and a bottle of Burgundy, you’d remember the order until you filled it. Then it would quickly leave your mind.

So what’s the advice, here?

If we’re not going to write with a pencil in one hand and a drink in the other, what can we take from Hemingway’s routine?

Stop while you’re still in the groove: mid-page, mid-paragraph, mid-sentence.

It will hard to walk away from the well while you can still draw water. But it’ll make tomorrow’s writing easier.

Besides, if you stop scribbling early enough, you might catch happy hour. Bottoms up!

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