The Hemingway Sentence: A Daily Practice for Better Writing

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

—Ernest Hemingway

I make it a point to do this every day. Sometimes it’s content related. Often it’s in my journal. Many times it’s a text to a friend. My goal is to write the best and most honest thing I can.

This is difficult, sometimes painful, but it’s true and pure, and sometimes–sometimes— just shy of brilliant.

I believe that being a good writer is about more than mastering the mechanics of the craft. It’s about the ability to tap into that visceral part of yourself that you’ve been taught to hide from the world.

Great writing has to come from a real place; it must be dredged from the depths of the emotional well.

That place isn’t immediately accessible. It’s closed off behind the various doors of your mind, kept hidden within the innermost piece of your heart. This is the part of you that is the most you, the kernel of who you are.

Getting to that place is difficult. This fortress of your heart is well-protected: the doors are thick, the guards wary.

Slow care, steady climb. That’s how you breach the walls.

To do this is daunting, to say the least. To do it on command seems impossible. Yet, like anything else, vulnerability is a skill that can be learned.

Just as an actor learns, through years of honing their craft how to access their own emotionality to bring life to a character, a writer needs to learn to do the same.

So the daily practice is about forcing yourself to get to that place consistently; and, as a result, teaching you to access it more easily.

And so, every single day, at some point, I write my Hemingway Sentence.

Unlike most of my writing tips, which are about getting everything down on paper and editing it later, the Hemingway Sentence is about making it perfect from the start. It’s about agonizing over every word, selecting the right punctuation.

The goal is to write something true, and real, and deep — in the most beautiful way possible.

It’s about a truth only YOU know. And accessing that truth makes you better.

Papa didn’t say to write the best sentence you can. He said to write the truest

Write about something you’re feeling. Something that’s affecting you in ways it couldn’t possibly affect anyone else.

By practicing daily this, you get to dive into the well and dig around, which, over time, teaches you how to access that piece of you. 

The Hemingway Sentence can be anything. Certainly, it can appear within an article you’re writing. More likely, it’ll be in a journal, or on the back of a napkin, or in the notes of your phone. Something real, and true, and pure. Never intended to stand before the eyes of others.

Until it is.

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

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