A short story: When Alexander the Great was a young man he had the great good fortune to be tutored by one of the world’s wisest teachers: Aristotle. Being young and foolish, Alexander was always trying to think up questions to flummox his astute tutor. One day he thought he’d finally found a way to stump him and asked, “How much is one?”
To his surprise, Aristotle pondered the question, then said he would have to think about it overnight. The next morning Aristotle gave Alexander his three-word reply:
“One is enough.”
What power this simple yet profound response holds for us as writers!
All around us, people are chasing more: more things, more entertainment, more distraction, more status, more success. More… you name it. And often, as wordsmiths, we fall into the same trap: We’re looking to find more words, more novelty, more recognition.
But sometimes, it’s wise to stop like Aristotle, ponder the power of one, and realize that we have everything we need to create great work: “One is enough.”
“One idea is enough, if we nourish it, and give it time to grow, and carefully add to it.
“One word is enough, if it’s fresh, bold, takes us to unexpected places, and multiplies.
“One hour is enough, if we use it wisely, stay focused, and let it engage and enlighten.
“One page is enough, if it sings and dances, and gives our story forward motion.
“One gesture is enough, if it reveals a character’s true emotions at a key moment.
“One night is enough, if we find renewal in our sleep and strength to write on.
“One booster is enough, if this person cheers us on when our road get rough.
Let’s step off the “more” merry-go-round! Chasing more can scatter our resources and deplete us. It can distract us from using our powers of concentration to focus on one small moment of progress. Chasing more can lead us to ignore one seed of an idea that can blossom into beauty.
So let’s borrow a leaf from Aristotle’s page. Let’s tackle our work, whatever it is, comforted and emboldened by his words: “One is enough” and all write on.