Once upon a time, I was a young writer. (I’ve always been a writer, but there was a time I was also young.) In those bygone days, I paid close attention to what more experienced writers said whenever they talked about their writing experiences. I was an eager student, ready to absorb any information that could help me become a better writer.
I also attended numerous conferences on writing, many that offered class sessions on “The Writing Life” or something similar. As I remember them, rules governing The Writing Life didn’t vary significantly: (1) write everyday and (2) write at least 1,000 words a day. Those two rules stood out for me.
Of course, even though the memory of those rules has stayed with me all these years, I failed to follow those rules! Simply put, those rules didn’t work for me.
When I began this blog, I instituted my own rules. One which I followed closely during the first few years was to limit the length of my posts to no more than 500 words. This self-imposed limit was adopted for disciplinary reasons; I wanted to be considerate to readers.
There was a secondary reason as well. I’m aware of my own approach to blog-reading. Too often, my attention flags when posts are long. When a post is especially long (even if it’s well-written and interesting), I find myself starting to skim. I don’t want to give short shrift to worthy posts, but I guess my attention span has suffered the malady of 21st century conditioning.
My self-imposed limit also presented a constraint in choosing the subject for my posts. Some topics can’t be fairly addressed in 500 words or less, so those topics were ignored. Over the last six months, however, I’ve had multiple posts that exceed 500 words and even a few that exceed 1,000 words. Every time I’ve come close to (or gone over) 1,000 words, I’m suddenly agitated and uncomfortable. As a proponent of Strunk and White’s “omit needless words” philosophy (see my post here), I’m prone to mumbling curses at myself and gnashing of teeth as a kind of personal scourging for my heedlessness.
(Naturally, my tendency is to spend far too much time writing a long post, so I’m subsequently unwilling to go back and weed out the needless words. Shame on me!)
The word-count of my poems remains separate from the word-counts of posts. If I added those … no, I’m not going to obsess over that.
Today’s poem is a reminder of those days when I’d beat myself up because I fell short of the goals: I hadn’t been writing daily or on the days I’d actually written, I’d only rarely made it close to the 1,000 words target.
(One confession is in order beforehand: the stanza with a bracketed limerick doesn’t conform − admittedly − to the five-line limerick standard. For the purists, I beg your indulgence.)