Sentences That Don’t Go Away

People have said some things to me that I carry around every day. Like tattoos, or songs stuck on repeat, I can’t get away from them. They hurt, they confound, they thrill and they perplex. They’re rich, full of promise. They’re juicy.


And, I’ve come to realize, they’re a really good foundation to write really interesting things.

How to Identify a Juicy Sentence*

  • Everyone has an internal monologue. What do you say to yourself when you’ve made a silly mistake or when you’re waiting in a three-deep line for the work bathroom? (When I screw up or do something embarrassing, and my face is flushing red, I silently repeat, “I’ve got this. I’ve got this,” over and over, even though, very often, there’s nothing that needs to be gotten.)
  • Has someone ever made a remark to you that you’re still puzzling about, years later? In college, I sat down with a group of fellow students for coffee. Together, we ran a campus magazine. In the middle of a lively conversation, one of the other students turned to me and remarked, “You’re awfully smarmy this morning.” I stopped what I was saying, in midsentence. Not being a generally back-slapping type of colleague, I reeled for a moment, wondering if my speech had been too loud, or too boisterous. Then I looked down into my coffee cup. It was still full. His assertion of smarminess haunts me to this day. 
  • Ever heard a one-sentence story that captured your attention? Not long ago, a co-worker commented to me that, in his days just starting out in journalism, his boss would look askance at my young coworker’s newspaper at lunchtime. “You browsin’ them job ads?” the boss would say, and without waiting for an answer, would disappear back behind the glass door of his office.

What to Do with a Juicy Sentence
All juicy sentences imply a question – Why do I feel like I have to “got this?” Is smarminess bad? What’s so bad about reading a newspaper on your lunch break? They provide an opportunity for you to turn over what surrounds these words, and figure out why they’ve stuck with you for so long. Try composting them to figure them out. Most importantly, find the root of them and hopefully, you can dig them out and make something new grow in their places. And get a pretty great piece of writing for your troubles.

* Or juicy phrase, juicy word, or juicy several sentences.