Hemingway’s advice to aspiring writers was characteristically brief: "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." I’d like to to follow this advice, but I have a lot of preparation to do first.
I don’t know many true things and so I don’t have a lot of material to work with. I know a lot of untrue things, and even more things that I treat as true without really thinking about it. For example, the other day my brother sneezed and I said "God bless you." In the silence that followed I had time to reflect on why I said this. I don’t particularly understand what God is, and I don’t have any idea why a blessing is so important after one sneezes. I seem to remember some myth about the soul being briefly in peril after a sneeze, and an offer of God’s blessing has some beneficial effect. Or so it was believed.
But I don’t believe that, and so I resolved not to say "God bless
you" whenever someone sneezes. But it seems impolite not to say
something. And that something will have to be a short unobtrusive
comment. I decided not to spend too much time agonizing over this, and
made snap decision to simply say "Bless you." It has religious
overtones, but so what? At least I’d be saying something in a
purposeful way instead of offering an automatic incantation.
A few minutes later, my brother sneezed again. "God bless you" I
said reflexively before I had time to think. Geez, how lame. I knew
that finding truth was elusive. Looks like dispensing with poor habits
of thought is hard too. But, that’s what I’ll have to do first if I
want to write true sentences. Don’t wait around because this could