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Naomi Rose's Challenge to Write Long(er) Sentences
Naomi Rose : Deep is Fun – A Challenge to Write Long(er)

Deep is Fun: A Challenge to Write Long(er)

My deep thanks to my friend and writing colleague Jane Falla for first bringing to my attention the losses-in-progress (depth; in-person conversations; thoughtfulness; spaciousness; meaning) through technology's imposition of brevity and speed on the writing and reading experience. Oh ~ and if any justification for long sentences seems needed beyond my own love for where they bring me, as a writer and a reader ~ Ursula K. LeGuin, that most imaginative and incredibly prolific writer, herself, sung their praises in her book, Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing fro the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew.

By Naomi Rose

Long sentences may seem to be on their way out, thanks to the ubiquity and speed-inducing presence of technology ~ but there is a lot to say for them, as writers in previous, less speed-absorbed cultures have shown. Long sentences get below the surface of things ~ lengthen not only the expanse of space that the words take up on the page, but also the stretch of space within the mind and spirit of the reader. To accompany a writer's lengthy sentences ~ following with sustained interest all the phrases and clauses kept in delicate, plate-spinning balance by commas, semicolons, and dashes ~ is to lengthen one's own stride, inside; to let go of the whirling circumference of the most surface edge of the radius of the circle, and to settle into the deeper, stiller, quieter realms of oneself where all the real treasures, both known and not-yet-known, reside. To develop a liking, even an appetite for, long sentences is to uphold the primacy of that technology of technologies, the human being, with our capacity for expansive mind, sympathetic heart, soaring spirit, and universally vibrating soul.

As one who has written lengthy sentences quite naturally for years ~ my husband, also a writer, kids me that my sentences are "Faulknerian" (though I'd prefer to be compared to Virginia Woolf, if at all) ~ I think it would be a great thing to bring back this way of writing and reading: kind of a recycling of vintage fashion, taking the best fabrics and frills from the past and introducing them, recast, into this year's line.

For this reason, I am issuing a challenge to you, reading this: to write a page with a long sentence in it that (a) makes sense ~ no point in just throwing in words, helter-skelter; no art in that; (b) comes to you from within ~ i.e., you can feel the rhythm of that length urging your words into place, feel it in your heartbeat, sense it in your breath; and (c) makes you feel differently after having written it than you usually do writing short, to-the-point, utilitarian (or PR) messages.

(Optional: Write a short bit afterwards, describing this process and experience, for you to know what that change in you is.)

If you are wondering what a long sentence reads like, go back and read the above paragraphs.

The subject can be anything. The purpose is to learn to think in long sentences, and write that way at least as an option. The reward is that you will exercise internal muscles you may not know are there: and, once evident to you, they will raise you up, make you more available to refined and deeper thoughts, explorations, and even writing.

Ernest Hemingway, watch out! The slowed-down writers and readers are coming. What will they unearth, what hidden treasures? Read the winning long-sentence writings of those who participated in the 2011 Writing Challenge (now closed).

Copyright © 2011 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.

Naomi RoseNaomi Rose, Book Developer and Writing Coach, has successfully used her "Writing from the Deeper Self" approach to help people with an inner-directed focus write the books of their hearts. More »

Updated 4/24/11