Hugo had a plethora of personal stories in this book. This came as a surprise to me because it is not something expected out of a literature and poetry book; but it proved to be very effective. The story that resonated with me the most was when he was knocking the phrase "the real world". It goes as follows:
“I hate that phrase "the real world." Why is an aircraft factory more real than a university? Is it? In universities I've had in my office ex-cons on parole, young people in tears racked with deep sexual problems, people recently released from mental hospitals, confused, bewildered, frightened, hoping, with more desperation than some of us will ever be unlucky enough to know, that they will remain stable enough to stay in school, and out of hospitals forever. I've seen people so lovelorn that I've sat there praying as only an unreligious man can pray that I don't say something wrong, that I can spare their feelings, that I might even say something that will make their lives easier if only for a few moments. Sad drug addicts too. Not people you usually meet in industrial offices. . . In some ways the university is a far more real world than business.”
This quote had an impact on me because of his strong example of all the different characters he has seen in a place such as a university office. He does a great job of making his points, which is the phrase "the real world" can not be simply thrown around and used as a label for certain settings. In his example, the university contained much more real world personalities and situations as opposed to an aircraft factory where not much emotion is displayed and everyone is robotically doing their work in anticipation of shift's end. According to Hugo, the real world expands far beyond business.
I think Hugo uses so many personal stories in a book about writing because he truly believed that these stories had some deeper significance and can spark some kind of interest or bestow some kind of knowledge on the reader. I personally feel that he ties so many personal stories in to show that writing poetry is in fact a personal experience. He uses all these personal stories to show that everyone came from somewhere, and that's what makes writing unique. Only in writing can someone feel free to simply let their thoughts out of their mind and let someone else experience them.
One of Hugo's most influential themes, in my opinion, was honesty. I don't think any quote portrays this theme more effectively than:
“Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you’ll find there is no reader. Just you and the page. Feel lonely? Good! Assuming you can write clear English (or Norwegian) sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone.
This quote is very powerful because it's instructing writer's to completely forget about the presence of others. If you really think about it, we are most honest in our thoughts; we think many things we wouldn't say out loud. Hugo wants that kind of honesty out of anyone's writing. We should completely disregard whether our writing is comprehensible or appropriate. Hugo seems to be stressing the importance of writing for ones self.