Despite all my admiration and enchantment while reading Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast I couldn’t help but frowning at his writing mantra: “make instead of describing”. Surely he’s been describing all along? He says he learned from a fellow writer to “distrust adjectives”. I don’t know exactly what it is he learned about adjectives because he did not abandon them.

Jack Kerouac also writes in this way in On The Road, impressing directly and vaguely the sentiments in his mind. “Stream of consciousness” sounds right not only because of Kerouac’s unedited, spontaneous style, but also because he offers access to the unrefined state of his thoughts, the feelings that are evoked in him. Unlike Keroauc, Hemingway edited and manicured his writing until it was pristine, but he presents the minds of his characters in the crudeness of their existence. He portrays thoughts in the way they rise and fall in a mind, appearing as a notion that remains vague if not developed before it exits soundlessly.

At the end there I wanted to use the word “intuitive”. Perhaps this is where Hemingway’s rule of thumb comes into play. Instead of describing the writing and the thoughts as “intuitive”, I can make them intuitive by describing as they exist, rather than describing the category (“intuitive”) to which they belong. Perhaps his rule is about describing things as they are, not as we later understand them. If so, then make instead of naming, or show instead of telling are better phrases.

Perhaps that’s why he uses the word “good”. A good cafe, a good wine, a very good novel. And somehow it works, despite the admonitions of high school English teachers for such vague wording. It describes an easy satisfaction, a vague but certain joy.