Wednesday, March 9, 2016

One true sentence

There are small blessings, tiny ones that come unbidden and make a hard day one sigh lighter.
Mira Jacob, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing

Ernest Hemingway writes in A Moveable Feast about kick-starting his writing. Most days, he said, he "worked until I had something done and always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I was sure of going on the next day." That's a great idea, one most writers can use. But what do you do when you are starting cold, a new chapter, a new story or whatever? Hemingway's answer was "write one true sentence, and then go on from there."

Mira Jacob
I was reminded of this when I encountered Mira Jacob's "true sentence" quoted above, from The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing. The line opens one of her chapters and appears to have been her way of getting started. The rest of the chapter flows from that one true sentence.

We might wonder what Hemingway meant by his now famous phrase, but in Jacob's case, her sentence certainly is true. Small, unbidden blessings do lighten our loads, however briefly. They may not be enough to make our day, but they can make one moment of that day. Because this blog concerns itself with words, let us consider some ways in which words can be blessings.

Greetings - If you don't think a simple "hello" is important, think about how you feel when someone you know walks by without so much as acknowledging your presence. It boosts us to be greeted, especially to be greeted by name. Add a smile and a good-natured comment and you've really got something. Of course, we shouldn't greet only those people we know. I've tried to do better at smiling at and greeting strangers met on sidewalks, in grocery stores, wherever.

Compliments - A hundred compliments can't make up for a single criticism. It's the latter we are likely to remember for months, perhaps years. Even so, a compliment, one that seems sincere and without ulterior motive, can "make a hard day one sigh lighter," as Jacob puts it. None of us passes out enough compliments. I am among the worst of sinners here.

Listening - Sometimes good language skills involve keeping one's mouth shut. Let the other person talk. Let others finish their thoughts before contributing our own. This can be a particularly fine blessing for those introverted souls unused to having anyone actually listen to them.

True sentences - We have come back to Mira Jacob and, indeed, Ernest Hemingway. Good sentences, whether expressed in speech or in writing, can lift us, inspire us, amuse us, encourage us, etc. I know Jacob's true sentence picked me up the day I first read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment