Sometime it is reassuring to know that great writers such as Ernest Hemingway experienced writers block. Here is how he handled it.
Recently I’ve started reuniting myself with the works of Ernest Hemingway, thanks to the motivation of a couple of Triond members. It’s amazed me how much one can learn about writing by reading the work of great writers from the past.
I started with ‘A Moveable Feast’, Hemingway’s memories of his early days as an unknown writer in Paris in the 1920s.
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How reassuring it was to read, only pages into the book, that Hemingway too knew about writers block. He too worried about not being able to write. Then a sentence he wrote really struck me. In telling himself not to worry, he wrote:
“All you have to do is write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”
It possibly sounds too simple, but it worked for him and it can work for us. I know. I’ve tried it.
A little idea sometimes creeps into my head, making a faint suggestion that can hardly be heard. Sometimes it seems almost absurd that a piece of writing could develop from a tiny thought. In the past I may have discarded it. But, having read Hemingway’s advice, I’ve tried the idea of just getting started, of writing one true sentence.
Recently I came across a flash fiction competition I want to enter. I needed something to write about, something different from anything I’d attempted before. I looked out the window and my husband was watering the garden.
Now, that doesn’t sound like exciting material for a flash fiction story, but I thought of Hemingway, got out my laptop and wrote one true sentence.
And, believe it or not, writing those words was all I needed. With no prior planning my fingers took on a life of their own and tapped a story onto the computer screen. I developed a story with a setting, a character, emotion, conflict and a resolution. It happened very quickly, but it would not have happened at all had I not made a start with the first sentence.
The story draft has potential and I intend working further on it, refining it, polishing it up and bringing it back to the required number of words. I’m not saying it’s a great story, but for me it’s a pleasing one. I’m happy to post it off as a competition entry.
Even this article is a result of Hemingway’s advice. Having made the commitment to write two articles daily whenever I can, I wondered what I could write about this morning. My eyes fell on Hemingway’s book and it occurred to me once more. All I had to do is write one true sentence. And so I did. And this article began writing itself.
So, whenever you’re feeling stuck, be sure to fill your time reading the work of great writers. They can be very inspiring. Then, when you feel ready to write, make a start. Write one true sentence and take it from there. It may be easier for you than you think.
More hints for tackling writers block:
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