Where do sentences come from?

Sift the debris of a young writer’s education, and you find dreadful things — strictures, prohibitions, dos, don’ts, an unnatural and nearly neurotic obsession with style, argument and transition. Yet in that debris you find no traces of a fundamental question: where do sentences come from? This is a philosophical question, as valuable in the asking as in the answering. But it’s a practical question, too. Think about it long enough, and you begin to realize that many, if not most, of the things we believe about writing are false…”

“…I’m repeatedly asked how I write, what my “process” is. My answer is simple: I think patiently, trying out sentences in my head. That is the root of it. What happens on paper or at the keyboard is only distantly connected. The virtue of working this way is that circumstances — time, place, tools — make no difference whatsoever. All I need is my head. All I need is the moments I have.”

…”There’s no magic here. Practice these things, and you’ll stop fearing what happens when it’s time to make sentences worth inscribing. You’ll no longer feel as though a sentence is a glandular secretion from some cranial inkwell that’s always on the verge of drying up. You won’t be able to say precisely where sentences come from — there is no where there — but you’ll know how to wait patiently as they emerge and untangle themselves. You’ll discover the most important thing your education left out: how to trust and value your own thinking. And you’ll also discover one of things writing is for: pleasure.”

Read full article @ New York Times – Where Do Sentences Come From?

Also, read Jeff’s post at View From a Ledge titled: Keep calm…and write on…

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Comments

  1. Len Waldron says:

    “Now try turning a thought into a sentence. This is harder than it seems because first you have to find a thought.”

    Great post and solid story. I once had a particularly bright classmate answer my question as to the status of our most recent writing assignment as “I am in the Holmsian phase.”
    “The what.” I asked.
    “Sherlock Holmes thought through all of his cases in his mind be before he spoke. He turned over and then organized facts, testimonies, evidence and theories in his mind before he spoke. That’s where I am with this paper.”

    Great answer, I thought. Because knowing him, he was actually doing so.

    On my many plane trips I have found myself engaging in the same exercises for my own writing. I fear it’s partially a survival/coping mechanism for the slow torture of constant business travel, much in same way a POW develops a taste for rat meat and learns to abide roaches.

    I think also such exercises get the subconscious working in one’s favor, the assistance of which I pridelessly welcome.

    Again, great post.

    Like

  2. Alex Jones says:

    Wise words you manage to capture David, like a successful fisherman.

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  3. Love this post today – I do try to think patiently. This reminds me of the book I am reading now, “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck. I find myself stopping and focusing in on specific sentences – how well they are constructed and the image they create. Just beautiful stuff – one sentence at a time.
    – Michael

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    • Michael, at least you try (to think patiently). I have zero aptitude on the patience front and try to force it. And naturally, that doesn’t work. This is why this article had such a strong impression on me. And as to Steinbeck, you must let me know if “Travels with Charley” is worthy. I just love his work. Dave

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  4. I was looking at the images of the places the pencil went and was very thankful that these days we have keyboards.

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  5. Love this: “…but you’ll know how to wait patiently as they emerge and untangle themselves. You’ll discover the most important thing your education left out: how to trust and value your own thinking. And you’ll also discover one of things writing is for: pleasure.”

    Like

  6. Switching off the grammar checker on my PC has proved a liberation. The flipping thing had no manners, keeping on interrupting the creative flow of my thoughts. It’s useful to learn the rules in the first place, so you know why you’re breaking them later.

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  7. When the writing brings pleasure, the readers will therein find pleasure.

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  8. LaDona's Music Studio says:

    Love this post.
    I compose most blog posts when I’m out running – a great distraction with 2 positive outcomes.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. […] and I can not wait to finish the story.  Just today, my blogger friend David posted on his site Lead.Learn.Live a wonderful piece on “where do sentences come from”.  As I read it I thought of my […]

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