Word Limits and Challenges


For most of my writing experience, I have had difficulty being concise. The more casual the situation, the longer my paragraphs would become. Whether this was mainly from insecurity in my abilities to articulate, my points or opinion, without being misunderstood, or needing to polish skills is hard to say. The reality is probably a combination of the two. However, having insecurities seeped into my creative writing as well. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath, self-doubt is pretty much creativity’s arch nemesis.

I was afraid I could do well. Afraid things wouldn’t make sense to someone else, and just afraid to even try. These fears resulted in numerous half-assed attempts at short stories, poems, and novels.

In the last three years or so, I discovered Flash Fiction, but I didn’t think I could write any pieces. “How could I ever have a complete story with essentially a paragraph?”  Then finally, I tried it. I started off doing pieces around the 500 word range. Fortunately, I found an online group for this and while 250 was the ideal goal, I needed to start somewhere. The other contributors didn’t mind me working my way down the word count, and eventually I was able to easily compose pieces within 200-300 words that I was happy to share and could be proud of.

But the challenges don’t end there. Some short-short stories are written within 100 words. That notion still somewhat astounds me, triggering self-doubt. As a way to combat this, I’ve decided to focus on writing poetry and recently worked on three separate pieces at 100 words each. While I found it difficult to achieve this, being able to do it has been far more rewarding. I’ve also been looking at using more short styled techniques with poetry as an additional challenge to myself. Working within such rigid parameters has allowed my creativity to flourish more than times where I think hmm, “I should try to write a poem today” or consider any other things I want to work on. If that makes me “less creative” or less capable as a writer, I’m not sure I care. For now I’ll continue to find ways of utilizing limitations to push myself to keep writing.

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