Ernest Hemingway had a beautiful house in Key West, Florida. He also had the perfect writing space—a second story above his detached garage with no outside access except for windows. He had a ladder that he would extend from his master bedroom to the room above the garage, and when he was writing he would pull the ladder in so no one could bother him.
This reminds me the Biblical account of Nehemiah, an Israelite who lived in exile in Babylon and served as cupbearer to the king. One day the king asked Nehemiah why he seemed so sad. Nehemiah replied, “Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ [graves], lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?”
When the king heard he had pity on Nehemiah, and gave him the authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Not everyone liked this plan.
Fearless, Nehemiah pressed on. But as the walls of the city began to rise, so did the opposition. Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, conspired, and ridiculed.
As the work continued, Nehemiah’s enemies became more desperate. Four times they entreated him to leave the safety of the city to meet with them, but Nehemiah didn’t trust them. Each time they approached him, he responded with the same answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” Nehemiah 6:3
What do Nehemiah and Hemingway have in common? They both knew what was most important, for them, and they refused to be distracted. They weren’t sucked in by social media, they didn’t get embroiled in online debates, and they didn’t grieve over Amazon reviews. I know they didn’t incessantly check their sales numbers. They knew when to pull up the ladder and when to get to work.
Although Hemingway did collect five toed cats. I’m not sure why.