Sentence Envy

As a writer, my ears always prick up when I hear a pithy word combination or an elegant turn of phrase. All these droll fragments get stored in my mental treasure chest, to be trotted out on this blog when the spirit moves me. My thoughts may be original to me, but the way I express them is often a mish-mash of things I’ve heard from so many places that I couldn’t possibly tell you their origins.

It’s a little harder to do that with entire sentences, though, without having to own up to downright plagiarism. Take this sentence that I read in a story written by my friend Paul Currington, the leader of the monthly storytelling group I attend called Fresh Ground Stories: “In the coal mine of life my canary is always dead.”

I just have to say, it’s a rare sentence that makes me roll back my chair and exclaim out loud. “Dang! That’s good!” Okay, so I might have punctuated it differently, but that’s just my pea-green jealousy talking.

That sentence is a thing of beauty. I’m in love with that sentence. I would have sex with that sentence if I could. Dammit, why didn’t I think of it?

Moments like this are rather bittersweet. I will always remember that sentence, and how it made me feel when my eyes touched it, but in good conscience I’ll never be able to use it.

That’s like being treated to the best gelato on earth, but being told you only get to have it once. Given that option, it would take me quite some time to decide if it was worth it, if it meant a lifetime of depravation. (But yeah, in the end I’d have it. I know me.)

I will admit that I’ve also written a few really good sentences in my life. My favorite one from this blog is: “Barack Obama eats boysenberry aspic on melba toast while doing the watusi in a frothy silk kimono.”

To understand why I wrote it, you’ll just have to check out the blog entry in question.

gelato

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11 thoughts on “Sentence Envy

  1. I recommend reading more. There are many writers with a huge gift for word smithing. Reader Cormac McCarthy, he basically what’s me to quit because few humans have ability to write as well as he does.

      1. I woke up in the middle of the night realizing where the confusion lies here. When I was writing this piece, I was thinking about conversations with friends, or overhearing people talking in line, or writings of people who aren’t formally published. I EXPECT great things from the Cormacs of this world, so their great writing doesn’t take me by surprise. It delights me, but it doesn’t incite envy. They are a world apart.

      2. Ah ok. Yes. Then I agree. There are many masters of the craft. All of unpublished writers should take some lessons and focus on quality of prose.

  2. That was a great sentence. I have sentence envy. Having deep roots in coal country, it puts me in that impoverished state of mind of my folks in Appalachia. Poetic.

    I do have to point out, that you have used that sentence.

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing.

    Jack

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