The Whole Story


I used to be quite the sentence lover. I loved them the way I loved a perfect bite in a meal, the sort of bite that leaves you anticipating your next. I loved the variety of sentences, the long and short, the staccato and fluid; I loved how a sentence had its own musical beginning, middle, and end, moving from word to word as a melody moves from note to note until it comes to rest naturally and necessarily at a single dot.

A good sentence to me seemed like it’s own story, a whole thought, made of the fewest pieces needed to complete it. I so loved them, that for a time I wasn’t writing stories but simply a collection of sentences. They were more interesting to me than plot and characters and the rest. The stories were simply vehicles, excuses to compose another and another and another delicious sentence.

There are many problems with this approach to writing, none of which were immediately apparent to me as I worked to string my sentences together. Before long, however, writing got harder and harder and I became more and more disappointed in those sentences. Where was the magic I had felt before? Were the sentences I was writing not good enough? Had I exhausted my talent?

The thing about sentences is that they are almost always connected to other sentences, growing out of and into what came before and what will come after. It is the rare sentence that can stand entirely alone, as satisfying as a poem. Most are dependent on the context in which they exist to convey their full power and gratification. I had lost track of the forest in my love of trees.

I still love sentences, but I have come to understand that the best sentences are the most necessary sentences. A sentence can be gorgeously crafted, but if it repeats what came before or leads a story nowhere, it disappoints and needs to go. The whole immeasurably more important than the parts, lovely as those parts might be. After all, I am not some collection of bones and blood, of successes and failures, of words and deeds. I’ve always been a whole thing in search of the next most necessary expression, and nothing I do will ever measure what I am.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

William KenowerComment