Writing – a sentence at a time…

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I am reading Julia Cameron‘s The Right to Write and feel like I’ve made a new friend who keeps urging me to write.  In her chapter titled “The Time Lie” she writes,

“If I had a year off, I’d write a novel,”
Maybe you would.  Maybe you wouldn’t.  Often the greased slide to writer’s block is a huge batch of time earmarked: “Now write.”  Making writing a big deal tends to make writing more difficult. Keeping writing casual tends to keep it possible.[1]

And literally she read my mind.  I had thought, “Maybe, I’ll write a novel… but I really don’t have time.  I’ll stick to poetry.”

Later in the chapter she writes,

The “if-I-had-time” lie is a convenient way to ignore the fact that novels require being written and that writing happens a sentence at a time.  Sentences can happen in a moment.  Enough stolen moments, enough stolen sentences, and a novel is born – without the luxury of time.[2]

So I decided to try it.  And the past couple of days I’ve been sick in bed so in between napping I’ve been writing down sentences shooting for a novel.  And it’s funny I’ll get going a little bit and then stop – not knowing where to go next.  And as soon as I stop I start thinking.  Oh no! Am I ever going to be able to finish this?? Is it going to be any good??

And I realized yesterday that all the art I’ve ever done has taken no more than a couple of hours.  I haven’t taken on projects that take weeks and months to finish.  I write a poem, I finish it, and I immediately decide whether it is any good. So this concept of writing something that will take weeks or months to finish is in some ways terrifying.  How will I know if it’s any good until I finish?  And how can I trust that it’s good enough to keep going?

So I’m heading into uncharted territories – and some parts of it are amazing as funny ideas spring out from no where. And the characters emerge from the page taking on quirks and heading in directions I hadn’t planned for them.  And other parts of it are scary.

And so I’m learning to lean into the discomfort of not knowing where it’s going and somehow when I am able to do that, is exactly when the characters surprise me in amazing ways.  And it’s kind of like life – I don’t really know where it’s going and the more I am okay with not knowing the more interesting opportunities emerge.

So slowly but surely – a sentence at a time – I am learning to live, and I am learning to write.


[1] Cameron, Julia. The Right to Write. New York: Penguin Putman Inc, 1998, p. 13.
[2] Cameron, Julia. The Right to Write. New York: Penguin Putman Inc, 1998, p. 14.

Author: Bryn Bamber

Career Coach Bryn Bamber helps people like you find a career that’s aligned with your goals. Her Burnout to Brilliance program teaches you how to make small shifts that will free up tons of energy for the things you really love. Start today with your FREE Checklist: Decrease Stress and Get an Hour of Your Day Back! Get it here - tinyurl.com/getanhourback. Learn more about Bryn & the Burnout to Brilliance program at www.brynbamber.com.

3 thoughts on “Writing – a sentence at a time…”

  1. Yay! I know a lot of authors and they’re the ones who say, “Just do it.” Some have urged me to write but I’m not into it…yet. Maybe one day. I don’t have the desire to push myself. Not even to write one sentence at a time. I’m quite content to read others’ works and cheer on those who are trying to write. It’s hard but, again from what I’ve heard, it’s incredibly rewarding. Good luck with it 🙂

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