300 Words

by thiszine


In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott encourages writers to find time to sit down at their desks everyday and to write, no matter how difficult it is or how impossible it seems. Just write, even if it’s only 300 words.


When I read this I thought, easy cake. 300 words is nothing to write everyday. And then I tried it. Like knitting or teaching kindergarteners, I realized, shit, this is hard. Especially for someone who can’t turn off the internal editor as she writes and strives to make every sentence perfect, 300 words everyday is asking quite a lot.


One afternoon in the middle of cursing out Anne Lamott and her little challenge as I stared down my computer screen with simmering rage, willing the end of the short story I was working on to fall from my fingertips, I realized, wait a minute. She said I just have to write 300 words. She didn’t say I had to write 300 words that I would ever use again or 300 words of pure, blissful, Amy Hempel-quality, or even 300 words towards the story I was currently working on. I just had to write 300 damn words!


Feeling like I’d decoded the top secret message to finally grant my entry to the inner circle, I opened a book to a random page, slid my finger halfway down, and wrote 300 words using the sentence my finger landed upon as the springboard. Was it the best 300 words I’d ever written? Certainly not. But it did loosen me up for a bit, yes, absolutely.


I don’t always write 300 words from a writing prompt before I get down to work, but sometimes it helps. Sometimes, like with taxes, you need a nice distraction in between your I-9 and your 1040. Some writing prompts don’t go anywhere and that’s okay. Some are incorporated into stories I’m working on, either directly or indirectly. Some grow into an entire life of their own.


I think writing prompts are more fun and often open up more creativity if they come from outside yourself (hence, the random book page). Beginning today, this zine is going to post one writing prompt everyday under the title “Write Away.” Why that title? First, I think if you love to write and intend to write, you often have an itch to write right now, right away, sometimes when it’s least convenient. Second, the idea of the writing prompt is to read it and go, without thinking, and just write away, without stopping to edit. You can edit later. For now you are only going to write. Maybe all you can get out is 300 words before you’re spent. Maybe you’re lost to another world the next four hours, writing away. It doesn’t matter what happens, so long as you take the time to devote at least 300 words to your writing.


And hey, if it leads to something you send to us, wouldn’t that be great too?



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