Our Man in Paris

A few highlights from Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, which came highly recommended by a few graduating classmates about a week ago (relevant selling points included "most bad-ass opening line, ever," which is always a good sign):
Young Hemingway looks hungry.

-Hemingway's sentences
-Writing about the hunger of being a young artist (and also of skipping meals and just being hungry)
-A description of Wyndham Lewis as possessing the "eyes of an unsuccessful rapist"
-An anecdote about reassuring F. Scott Fitzgerald about his penis size and subsequently checking said penis in a restaurant bathroom to further reassure a visibly insecure Fitzgerald

Hemingway also mentions his writing process, which is characterized by both discipline and patience. He would not stop until he had finished whichever section he was working on, and also liked to think a few steps ahead:
I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. 
He also helpfully talks about dealing with writer's block—here's what he had to say:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. 
The idea of the "truest sentence" is wise advice that I've heard from other writers—I've had the chance to ask Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Louis Menand about his writing process (he, like Hemingway, writes sentences that are extraordinarily concise and clear), and he also writes with a similar process by approaching his written work sentence by sentence, so as to make his writing as tight as possible. It also means he can finish everything in a single draft with little or no revision (but it does take about the same amount of time as writing a rough draft and doing revisions!).

It's reassuring to know that this approach to writing can be traced back a few generations—I'm sure many writers before Hemingway's time also advocated a similar approach. I'd think it would be helpfully to teach this approach as an alternative to the rough draft/revision approach that's widely taught in high schools, but, of course, it doesn't work for everyone.

In music, too, self-editing is hugely important—both in composition and in improvisation, although it's not exactly the same in improvising since time is passing and you can't take back what you say. Hemingway writes:
If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.
 "Less is more" seems too much of a cliché these days—instead, when you feel that you can't go on, do what Hemingway did and write the truest sentence you know.