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One true sentence

A couple of days ago, I thought I had the beginnings of a new poem.  I was excited because, as I said in an earlier post, I’ve been experiencing some trouble transitioning from preaching mode back to writing mode.  I came to my writing desk, wrote out the line, and waited for the rest of the poem to follow.

Nothing came.

I wrote the line out again, and waited some more, and then realized that it was meant to be inserted in an already existing poem.  And indeed, it fits like the proverbial glove.

That’s all I wrote that day.  That’s all I wrote all week.  But far from feeling bad about my lack of output, I am elated.

Ernest Hemingway experienced much the same thing.  He writes in “A Moveable Feast”:  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.

What I had written wasn’t even a sentence, just a seven word fragment, but it is one of the truest, most powerful phrases I have ever written.  I kept reading the poem over and over, out loud, and when I reached that line there she was, the Magdalene, raging at God, shaking her fist in the face of the Almighty and demanding he explain himself.  And I knew I would be given the, pardon the religious word, but the grace to continue this collection of poems.  And if I start to panic at what I perceive to be the slow rate of progress, I will say to myself, “Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence…”

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