Last week I finished Ernest Hemingway’s A Movable Feast — a memoir of his time in 1920s Paris. It’s a short book and it has some neat insights about what he did and the people he hung out with — but you see it through his particular point of view (especially how F. Scott Fitzgerald is portrayed — I can’t tell if it’s truthful but it’s pretty damn hilarious). But for me (and whoever else read the book), the takeaway passage happens roughly near the beginning:
“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.
But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. 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 say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”
Simple, huh? It’s a neat little writing mantra to decorate your typewriter with or to add to your wall of “inspiring” quotes… that is, if you do that kind of thing, heh heh heh ;)