Thoughts on Prolificacy

Most of you know about my longstanding love for all things Hemingway, which began almost immediately after birth due to my father’s unfailing love for the writer. Dad used to read me the Nick Adams stories when I was a kid, and as I got older we shared some of Hemingway’s more complex writings. By the time I arrived at college, I’d already read all but a few Hemingway publications, and had been trying to emulate his painfully plain style of writing.


My senior year of college, I signed up for a year-long Hemingway seminar, a course that would not only analyze the man’s work but the man himself. One thing that stayed with me quite strongly when I graduated, and has continued to root itself in my mind, is how prolific Hemingway managed to be even though his life was very often in shambles. I loved that he was best known for his fiction, but that he continued to write magazine articles, short forms, nonfiction and even poetry. I thought to myself, I want to be like him–the kind of writer who does every genre.


Getting my MFA in poetry derailed that plan for a moment. I focused so intensely on mastering the skills of that one genre and closed myself off from the others, thinking that I just didn’t have it in me to take on other mediums. Hell, I was barely any good at writing poems so what business did I have trying anything else? The MFA program at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts knows better however, and forced me to attend lectures and courses on material outside of my own genre. I sat through lectures on children’s books and scoffed at them, wondering why I’d been forced to pay attention to something that would never benefit me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that “stuff that would be of no use to me” worked its way into my brain and began spreading. And as I worked on my poetry, my poetry worked on other things. I could not have anticipated how much the techniques of poetry can lend themselves to other genres.


The opportunity to complete my old, post-Hemingway class nonfiction manuscript after graduating from my MFA program vaulted me back into the mindset that I, too, could write in multiple genres. For a time I just assumed that once my memoir was finished, I’d return to poetry and that would be the end of it. But the writing was so wonderfully mixed-up with the teachings of all genres that I decided the previous plan was no good. I will always write poetry and it will always be my first love. But I want to tackle it all. Even if I’m only good at a few, I want to attempt all genres. I want to write poetry, short stories, nonfiction, prose novels, novels in verse, and yes, perhaps even children’s books.


The prolificacy has officially begun. I have chosen a name for my heroine and can now begin writing the novel I’ve feared and dreamed of since my first day in the Hemingway class. Thanks to all who offered suggestions in the naming business—your help was integral in leading me to the perfect name. You’ll need to wait a while to learn that name, but I plan to continue posting blogs while on vacation, so you might just get a glimpse of her while I’m there. If you want a hint, the name is literary in nature, and has some oblique connections to Hemingway himself.


P.S. The name is not Hadley.


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