I finished reading THE PARIS WIFE last night, and I loved it. It’s a wonderfully crafted historical fiction that follows Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, as they navigate the choppy seas of marriage in the 1920s. The book is set mostly in Paris and Spain where the Hemingways lived, drank, and wrote with other literary expats like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. It’s a truly fantastic love story that looks at marriage intimately through a uniquely brutal psychological lens. But what really struck me last night after I closed the book was not the novel itself, but rather the short essay the author, Paula McLain, included at the back of the paperback edition. She says a number of notable things in the short piece but I just want to highlight one point in particular. McLain says that once she found Hadley’s voice she began to believe that she could actually write this book that she was “dying” to write. That’s what hit me: she was dying to write this novel. As a writer, I think that makes all the difference in the world. I am currently writing a novel that I feel the same way about. It is a story that has brewed within me for years, and the time has finally come for it. I, too, am dying to write it, and that has made all the difference. As an artist, there is nothing more exquisite than the singleminded focus that comes from writing a story that simply pours out of you, because if you don’t, you’ll die. Metaphorically, of course, well maybe not.
I wish writers everywhere today that same kind of story. The kind you don’t choose, because it chooses you first.