What do you mean, you didn’t write an international bestseller today?

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

When is enough?

That’s the hard thing about being a writer. Rarely are we ever completely finished. In drafting, in editing, in revising.

There is always something more to be done.

Tell me, at the end of the day, do you find yourself thinking: “Funny, I didn’t write an international bestseller today.”

Or more explicitly: “Man, am I a failure.”

It’s a low grade fever. That Didn’t Do Enough Today feeling.

As a writer, you can have very long periods between any closure or sense of accomplishment.

So sometimes I have to tell myself. Well, you did do an outline and two loads of laundry. Or well, you wrote 500 words and listened to your son’s rather long opaque story about his creation on Minecraft. Or well, you read half a book for research and bought your daughter that face scrub she wanted. Or well, you revised three chapters and didn’t snarl at your husband.

And maybe, just maybe if I’m very lucky I’ll be able to say, Well, I wrote one sentence of that international bestseller.

And that is enough.

Writers tend to think in whole pieces. In the image of the whole book or story or play or screenplay. In symphonies.

But as symphonies are made up of notes, books are made up of sentences. And you have to write each one down and that takes time.

And yes, I know—bleeding obvious—but what we know intellectually is very often forgotten emotionally.

Novels take time. They take focus. And they take compassion for yourself when things are going slow.

So if you wrote one good sentence–a true one, as Hemingway would say–and smiled at a stranger today. Well, I for one, would call that a very productive day indeed.

NB: I do realize I’m being slightly disingenuous. Your average sentence probably runs 7, 8 words. Your average book, say, 70 – 80,000 words.  So that’s going to take a while. So I suggest one good paragraph. A long one. 😉

photo by jugbo (flickr)


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6 responses to “What do you mean, you didn’t write an international bestseller today?

  1. … unless of course your deadline is December. then TWO good sentences is a win!

  2. Um . . . could it be one good sentence that has nothing to do with an international bestseller?

    Just curious . . .

  3. ninakillham

    Go, Candy. You can do it. Good luck on that deadline! x

  4. ninakillham

    Ah yes, very good point, Sarah. Worthy of a whole new blog post really. One good sentence on whatever you are working on with all your heart. x

  5. I love reading your posts. 🙂

  6. ninakillham

    Thank you, Juliet! You’re a sweetie.

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