Edit: Martin Weigert already said everything I was trying to say in his recent article “Write less while saying more”.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post just for the sake of writing something. Now I feel weird about it. The itch to type and hit “Publish” was present and strong, but I didn’t have any intellectual substance to offer the world. (By which I mean you, my few and treasured readers.) If only I had the self-control to refrain from distributing useless thoughts. Even better would be the ability to conjure up worthwhile sentences at any time, on demand.
I used to think a good writer could make any subject interesting whenever they were called upon to do so. Now that idea seems naive — no person can competently tackle every topic, especially without doing research or interviews. You can’t just spout off and have it be instantly fascinating. Maybe there are rare savants who possess this ability, but I suspect it’s uncommon.
I just finished reading The Old Man and the Sea and I resent Hemingway for being such a superb prose stylist. He constructs his statements very simply — never afraid to reuse a noun or a verb if he deems it right — and the result is highly impactful. I get the sense that Hemingway didn’t produce material just for the sake of expression. Maybe he grew out of the tendency, or disciplined it away. Maybe I can too?