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Write one true sentence - Hemingway's advice

Updated on March 12, 2010
Hemingway (Photo Credit Wikipedia)
Hemingway (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

by John Davidson Vancouver, Canada

My favorite Hemingway book is "A Movable Feast." because he writes about starting out as an unknown writer in Paris struggling to find his voice.

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." - Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast."

Hemingway's true sentence is short declarative and crisp like a bite of Michigan apple. He uses one or two syllable words with a rare three syllable thrown in. Here's a line where he describes a lady sitting in the cafe.Pick out someone in the cafe and try to describe what's unique about them in as few words as possible.

Even though his wife and him were dirt poor with a new infant to feed, he got out of the house and wrote in cafes or a hotel room he rented for his writing studio. Away from the distractions of his wife's talking and constant demands of looking after a new-born he was free to create.

Poverty can be a blessing. Starvation heightened his senses. He would visit art museums and study the details of the food displayed in the pictures. He hunted and killed pigeons to eat. His hobby was walking and observing. To avoid driving himself crazy with hunger, he devised walking routes that avoided favorite cafes and restaurants.

Here's a passage instructing the writer to always finish his writing for the day knowing what he is going to start with the next day,

"It was wonderful to walk down the long flights of stairs knowing that I'd had good luck working. 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. " - Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast

And advice for getting started on those days when the muse has abandoned us.

"But sometimes when I was started on a new story and I could not get 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 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 the scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. - Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast

Which coffee would Hemingway sip as he devoured his morning croissant? The holy trinity of a good cup of joe is the beans, the grind and the coffee-maker. Check my other hubs on coffee. Discover the $30 coffee-maker that beats out the $10,000 clover coffee machine.

It's All In The Beans.

Make A Perfect Cup Of Coffee Everytime


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I loved a Moveable Feast, just read it. He was a true genius. For a different view of the same period in his life, read Paula MacLain's The Paris Wife...told from his wife's point of view.

    • HattieMattieMae profile image


      7 years ago from Europe

      Love it, Thanks for writing up on him!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What does he mean by "the truest sentence you know"? To write the simplest sentence on the subject at hand? Sorry if it's obvious, but I'm trying to improve at writing and I suck at the moment.

    • johndvan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks for reading my hub, Billboard.

      A Moveable Feast gets panned by most critics, but it's his work that speaks to my heart. I like the way it's made up of a bunch of short stories all tied to Paris rather than a long novel set in Paris.


    • Billboard profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks for the glimpse into A Moveable Feast. These are the books that inspire me, the ones that show me what it takes to be a real writer. Blessings in your own writing.

    • johndvan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      I like the rhythm in his writing, too, like this descriptions of his house in Bimini from "Islands in the Stream",

      "The house was built on the highest part of the narrow tongue of land between the harbor and the open sea. It had lasted through three hurricanes and it was built solid as a ship. It was shaded by tall coconut palms that were bent by the trade wind and on the ocean side you could walk out of the door and down the bluff across the white sand and into the Gulf Stream."

      Thanks for the comment!

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Hemingway gives us good advice, and it is true, the best writing is the simplest. My favorite Hemingway story is "Islands in the Stream" for his wonderful character development, and his surprisingly (for such a macho writer) sensitive look at human relations.

      Thanks for a good hub.


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