4 Lessons I Learned About Blogging From the Hemingway House in Key West

Polydactyl Cat at the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida - WheresAmanda.com

Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

This must have been a tenant that Earnest Hemingway lived by. Also, surround yourself with cats.

True writers seem to be a conundrum of solitary types who love adventure, be it in real life or merely in their own heads. Hemingway possessed both of these traits traveling here and there and barely being able to hold on to a woman. He was married five times and committed suicide after 61 years of life.

On a recent press trip with Carnival I had the opportunity to tour Hemingway’s historic Key West home (albeit mansion by Key West’s Standards, it’s the largest held residential land mass on the 3×5 mile island).  Here are some corollaries I drew as a writer.

Hemingway House in Key West, Florida - WheresAmanda.com

Your Best Material Comes from Suffering

Hemingway wrote some of his best works after great suffering. For Whom the Bell Tolls followed time served covering the Spanish Civil War and his divorce from his second wife. The Old Man and the Sea was born after he separated from his third wife and served time as a war correspondent writing of tragedies in World War II. Men Without Women…after a bout of anthrax and A Farewell to Arms after the suicide of his own father. He no doubt drew on these experiences as fodder for his writing. I’ve found that some of my best writing comes from lessons I’ve learned and shared with my readers out of difficult times I’ve had. No one wants to hear about how great you are. They want to see that you’re human, that they can relate to you on some level. Show your readers the not so pretty parts of you to earn their trust.

Writers May Want to Be Alone But They Don’t Want to Be Lonely

When I write I need to have complete silence. I don’t have a writer’s studio but I don’t really need one. I just need the top of my lap. Ah, technology. At the Hemingway house in Key West, there is an outside carriage house. Above the carriage house was a hayloft that was converted into Ernest’s studio. He wrote 70% of his lifetime works in a nine year period in that quiet little Key West studio surrounded by his five-toed cats. While I don’t have any polydactyl cats, I do have one and he is my constant writing companion.

Polydactyl Cat Entering the Writing Studio at the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida - WheresAmanda.com

Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

Hemingway spent an awful lot of time drinking at Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval Street. In fact, the story goes that his home was selected because it was in such close proximity to the Key West Lighthouse. He could get drunk at the bar and follow the light from the lighthouse to find his way home. This also reinforces point number two about writers not wanting to be alone. A typical day for Hemingway would start the night before. He would visit Sloppy Joe’s where he would swap stories with friends while sipping Papa Doble’s (his favorite rum cocktail). When he was good and lubricated he would venture back home. Rising at 6 am he would write until noon when he would stop writing and either go fishing or head back down to Sloppy Joe’s bar. Alcohol seems to facilitate a more honest writing style. Sometimes too honest. This is why you should write drunk and edit sober.

Lighthouse as Viewed from the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida - WheresAmanda.com

You Will Lose Yourself or Find Yourself Through Writing

People visit Key West for one of two reasons. They either want to lose themselves by going wild and crazy in the streets or they want to find themselves in the calm and simple living there. The same can be said for blogging. You can escape reality for a bit through literary fiction or possibly find yourself processing life through your writing. The choice is up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.