Sunday, August 02, 2009

One True Sentence

I've been revising the memoir about my father. Some days go better than others. On a not so good day last week, a friend reminded me of this Hemingway bit from A Moveable Feast:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then, because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone else say.

I might not be in Paris, but I can still look across the suburban lawns of Upper Arlington and think, "Do not worry. Just write one true sentence."

You too can look out from wherever you write and think the same. If you like, leave a comment below and let me know where you're working and how you're doing.

9 comments:

Carol said...

Thanks Nita, I really needed that wisdom this morning. I'm editing my memoir and having a hard time getting back into it after a few days off. So now I'm in my sunroom overlooking the marina in our little Pacific Northwest town and reading the Hemingway quote OUTLOUD. :)

Anonymous said...

I have just returned from Phoenix, AZ where I have been living for the past year. I am here to settle some affairs before I leave for Mexico to retire. It's true that of all the things I hate most, moving is at the top of the list. There is no suitcase large enough, no room clean enough and no woman friendly enough for a man cursed with wanderlust.

R. Eugene Wallace
RWAL102086@ameritech.net

Raine said...

This was a lovely moment of synergy for me. I am working on true expressions and clear sentences. I write mornings looking out over a apartment parking lot dotted with trash dumpsters in various stages of being filled. Boxes surround the base of one dumpster just like the words of my mouth waiting for proper placement. My audience are the birds picking at nearby feeder when my dogs don't chase them away.

Laura Sommers said...

Thanks. Very timely help. I will try.

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing this, Nita. I am having to write now, this time for real. I know I can do it because of the many things I've learned from you. Thanks for the inspiration. Oh, and Hemingway's birth place and museum are two blocks from my condo here in Oak Park. Come visit sometime!

Mary said...

I've been there with writing about a deceased loved one. I have found that you have to give it time because your perspective changes as you deal with the loss. I have a clear picture now that I didn't have in the beginning, suppose that means I now look through different eyes. After 14 years I have accepted the loss and the writing about my sister is emotional but just as passionate. Again, I always appreciate your words of wisdom and insights.

Anonymous said...

Great job, Nita. This is fabulous.

Anonymous said...

what is the definition for a 'true sentence.'How would you define it? What would your 'true sentence' be?

My english teacher asked me and I was unable to answer.

Nita said...

@Anonymous. For me, a "true sentence" is one that both speaks to me and speaks to the project I'm working on. If that's a novel, it's sentence that captures character or moves the plot forward elegantly and with power. If it's memoir, the sentence might capture an insight I've had as time has revealed the story I'm trying to tell. Hope that helps.