Photo of Ernest Hemingway, his sister and friends circa summer 1920 via  Wikicommons
Photo of Ernest Hemingway, his sister and friends circa summer 1920 via Wikicommons

  

I’ve spent most of 2017 writing. The problem is most of it hasn’t been true.

As a copywriter I’m often called to be a ‘jack of all trades’ (or at least be able to research enough about a trade to write about it.)

While none of my work falls under the frighten umbrella of ‘fake news’ unfortunately I’ve allowed it to stop me from writing about what I really care about.

Zooming out to my personal life, while I’ve had an absolute blast this year I’ve also dedicated countless hours to many things that aren’t ‘true.’

In his book, On Writing (Amazon affiliate link) Stephen King had this to say:

“Now comes the big question: what are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: anything you damn well want… as long as you tell the truth.”

If you have a couple of minutes to spare I’d love to share my thoughts about how the most important thing you can do in 2018 is to be true.

You in?

Nothing but the truth. 

In this context, I’m talking about those dreams, passions, hobbies and actions that make you feel alive.

The things that make you – you.

The things that if you do not partake in, you rob yourself of the very reason you breathe.

Some call it a calling, others a purpose and some describe it as the will of God, fate or destiny.

For me, it is to write,
For you to could be to run,
For Picasso, it was to paint,
And for some, it’s raising kids.

It may change from season to season but more often than not it is rooted in the same place – our very core.

Discussing things like this can get very lofty very quickly (and vague) but it is important that we do – or at least try to. 

Why?

Because it is so fundamental to who we are and how we live our lives.

Another writer, Ernest Hemingway, also seemed to be obsessed with the idea of ‘doing what is true.’

He writes about it multiple times in A Moveable Feast (Amazon affiliate link.) 

In fact, he had a trick to overcome ‘writer’s block’ by using ‘trueness.’

It’s pretty interesting and I think we can all apply it to our lives whether we write, run, paint or parent.

How to use trueness to unblock + unlock ourselves

The Hemingway hack:

“All you have to do is write one true sentence: write the truest sentence you know.”

He claimed that if he was stuck and couldn’t get the next words out he would simply write a sentence that he had heard someone say in real life or a sentence that he knew himself to be 100% true.

In 2017 I have spent too much time mindlessly scrolling, fixing website headers, watching dank memes on YouTube and taking on extra work instead of pursuing what is true in my life.

I wrote the above sentence to test Hemingway’s theory because it is 100% true though I would rather not publicly confess it.

What’s interesting is that after writing this ‘true sentence’ this whole post flowed rather easily.

Why is this the case?

Ernest would perhaps say because it deals with my reality and deals with my truth.

I would also suggest that it leaves me open and vulnerable with nothing really left to hide so I don’t have to try and cryptically write my truth or disappointment into the post because it is open in plain sight for everyone to see.

Perhaps this allows me to get to the heart of the article rather than beating around the bush, but I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.

While mulling this post over I couldn’t help but ask:

How often are we guilty of pursuing things in contradiction to our truth?

For example:

  • We want to deepen our faith but swap times of prayer for sleep or scrolling.

  • We want to get in shape but still buy that salted caramel ice cream.

  • We want to write but spend all our time learning about writing instead of picking up the pen.

That last point wrecks me because it is the truest and most deadly in my own life.

I love to learn.
I love to be mentored by people far more skilled than myself.
I love to gather insight from as many voices as possible.

But the reality is this often gets in the way of me pursuing my truth.

I’ll spend my time:

  • Listening to podcasts about writing instead of doing it myself.

  • Watching ‘how to’ videos without actually doing it.

  • Reading books about getting closer to God rather carving out the time to get to know him myself.

I think we can all relate to this in one way or another.

None of us do all the things we should do, let alone what we want to do.

The bible deals with this in many forms but there’s one metaphor in the book of James that I think is quite poignant.

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” – James 1:23-24

Around this time every year, most of us look in the mirror and tell ourselves this year will be different, only to walk away and forget those commitments and dreams a few weeks/months later.

I don’t want to live this way.
I don’t want you to either.

Let’s get practical.

There’s nothing worse than a post like this leaving you hanging: presenting the problem with no solutions.

While these are not bulletproof or magic pills for success, they should at least get you going with some ideas.

1. Learn From Nike and Just Do It.

It doesn’t matter in what capacity, just start doing.

For Hemingway, all it took was one true sentence.

For me, it means getting up earlier to spend time with God and to write.

What do you need to do to start doing?

2. Start Small

Sustainability is absolutely key.

I wrote about how incrementalism can change your life back in a post based on the ancient Greek strongman Milo Of Croton.

The principle is that if you can do a little bit consistently over the course of a year/decade it adds up to something unbelievable.

Stephen King touches on this in On Writing as well.

He commits to writing 2000 words a day – which he admits isn’t that much – but makes the point that within 3 months he will have finished a novel of 180,000 words.

That’s absolutely insane.

It’s also why he’s among the most prolific and successful writers of our time.

3. Don’t Empty The Well

The reason King limits himself to 2k words a day is because he knows he can keep it up.

Daily.

Back in March of this year, I was clocking in around 35k words a week with work and personal writing combined.

After 6 weeks  I never wanted to write ever again.

In the months that followed to struggled to even finish my work while my personal writings (what is true for me) slipped away entirely.

Don’t make my mistake.

Leave enough fuel in the tank for the next day.

Hemingway chimes in on this point too:

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

If only I knew that a year ago lol.

(P.S for most of us this means writing less, playing more and getting more sleep.)

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

You’ll make mistakes,
You’ll make them often.
You’re human.

Don’t dwell on them. Accept them, deal with them and move on.

5. Embrace your season.

I think many posts like this fail to recognise the reality of life such as: paying rent, food bills and family/other commitments.

I’d love to be making a living publishing fiction, making podcasts and writing posts like this but the reality is that in this season of my life that isn’t where I’m at.

I still have to take clients, study and do my work.

Chances are you do too. Don’t resent that. Embrace it.

Don’t neglect those things: but put your everything into them and do it well.

“But please don’t compromise your truth for it.”

I’ve just finished my first book and all of it was written in a Mcdonalds on Sunday mornings in between the time I left my wife to work and before I went to church.

Those hours added up and the result is a completion of one of the truest projects I’ve ever committed to.

It doesn’t need to start with a dramatic quitting of your job and moving to a log cabin…often it simply starts with 15 minutes a day and if it does develop into leaving the 9-5 and writing on typewriters beside open fires then you can deal with that when you get there.

Some Parameters for Truth

Generally speaking, I think we know when we are not being true to ourselves as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, writers, painters and so on.

But at the same time, I have found myself (both my heart and my mind) to be rather untrustworthy and untruthful at the best of times.

You could read this post and say: ‘well what if I found genocide or racism to be true?’

That’s why personally I choose to look for truth outside of myself and humanity through faith and a personal relationship with Christ.

Whether you choose to do the same is of course entirely up to you but having some sort of parameters to ground us and keep us on the right track I suggest would be wise.

Here are 3 simple tests to run your truth through:

  1. Does it hurt the world/other people?

  2. Does it help the world/add value to people?

  3. Is it self-serving?

If it passes these simple tests then I’d say you’re on the right track.

Go For It.

All that’s left now is to do what is true and if you can do that,  then you have nothing to fear about the new year.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8

More from Matthew Thompson

If you liked this post I’d love to add you to my email group where I share (around once a month) a new post like this on a wildcard of topics.

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Other than that, thanks for reading and all the best for the New Year.

– Matthew Thompson

Books used:
On Writing – Stephen King. 
A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemmingway

Further reading:
Delta Airlines Paid For Our Groupon Wedding
2 Years Ago My Friend Got Shot: Here’s What I Learned
How An Ancient Greek Strongman Can Help You Achieve Goals

(Affiliate disclaimer: When possible I always try to use affiliate links to Amazon as a means of generating some income from the blog. I receive a percentage of any sales made through them. Thank you for your support.)