Today, on Monday, May 29, 2023, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is one of the saddest experiences of my life thus far; I was holding back tears throughout most of the visit.
It was also, however, one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.
Anne Frank was a true writer, in part because she was a true reader, and she taught me a lesson on how to be more of both writer and reader: Keep a notebook of beautiful sentences.
Since Anne had shared her love of words with her father, he suggested that she keep a notebook where she could write down, word for word, all beautiful sentences that she encountered while reading (and she read a lot).
She named this notebook, aptly: “The book of beautiful sentences.”
At the Anne Frank House, I saw the original “book of beautiful sentences.” It was stunning.
No wonder Anne Frank was such a good writer while being so young!
She had written, by hand, page after page of beautiful sentences that she had encountered while reading.
Sentences from the best writers, her favorites. Word for word.
In doing this exercise, Anne wasn’t just paying tribute to the great writers, nor was she merely memorizing easily-quotable sentences.
She was doing what musical composers do when they transcribe (by ear) a musical work they love: She was internalizing the elements that gave those sentences their beauty.
Word choice, sentence structure, pacing, musicality; by doing this exercise in literary transcription, Anne Frank was internalizing all the elements that would later make her own writing so special.
Thankfully, it’s an exercise we can all do. It can help us develop as the writers and readers we can be.
Keep a notebook of beautiful sentences.
Thank you, Anne!