When you think of Hunter S. Thompson, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the opening sentence from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas:
We were somewhere near Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
Probably you don't think of The Great Gatsby or A Farewell to Arms or "A Rose for Emily."
However, Thompson greatly admired Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner and recognized that these writers had voices—and as a young writer, he wanted to know how those voices worked.
So he stole from them: he typed out the entirety of The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms. He STOLE FROM THE BEST. Let's talk about that for a moment.
First of all, be very sure that he didn't do it in order to copy any of those writers (although you can detect traces of Hemingway's macho, brutalist style in Thompson's work). He didn't do it in order to "feel what it was like to write a masterpiece," as Johnny Depp (who has played Thompson twice) claimed in an interview. Thompson was enough of a writer to know that copying a finished novel was in no way similar to the process of writing that novel. [see the KING OF HEARTS FALLACY]
He did it to force his eye to slow down to allow his inner ear to hear the rhythm of each writer's language, to recognize the word choices, the phrasings, the rise and fall of each paragraph. From this exercise he was able to train his own ear to listen to his writing and to improve his word choices, his phrasings, his paragraphs.
Plus, typing out an entire novel is a magnificent TASK AVOIDANCE, isn't it?
BOOK UPDATE— I have a nascent ritual for getting Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy finished: after blogging each morning, I take three sticky notes from the printout notebook and put them on my monitor. I work through those. After lunch, I take the Assistive Feline™ out to play in the labyrinth while I take a printout of the morning's work and read it out loud, editing as I go. I think the first four chapters are done.
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