Want to be a better writer? Write! That’s what everyone says and, yeah, it’s true. Other things help, like reading great books about writing, but writing itself – the act of putting words on paper – is the key to getting better. About a year ago I made huge changes in my writing lifestyle to try and write daily. And man, did my writing improve by leaps and bounds. I’ve been a better writer at other points, but I quickly saw an improvement in everything I was doing. For me the plan was to freewrite fiction for 10 minutes first thing in the morning. Here’s an example of something not half bad…
One red thread clung to the shoulder of the coat of the man in front of her. She knew she was fixating on this. But that didn’t help her to stop. The line at the bodega was moving more slowly than usual, the problem with coming on a Sunday. When people stretch the morning with conversations that span a week’s worth of information. When they have time on their walk back to the house. The Monday through Friday line is much quicker, when they don’t have time on their walk to the subway.
The thread, like many in expensive knits, was really two threads, tightly twisted into one stronger line. It formed a shape not unlike a question mark (did it come from another piece of his clothing? That of someone who’d hugged him? His mistress? A child who’d ridden on his shoulders?) but more like a broken infinity sign.
He’ll die when it falls off. He’ll die when it falls off. He’ll die when it falls off… she cleared her throat, her swallow cut off by the start of panic, choking her. Her hands went out to grab something, the usual reaction. A woman saw, “Are you okay, honey? You look a little faint,” the woman touched her arm. It looked like concern.
“Fine, sorry, must have locked my knees,” because they had always been told in high school choir that doing so caused fainting. Because fainting was far more acceptable than panic attacks caused by death curses. She fought the urge to start laughing.
“Here, here!” the owner, standing in the door, stubby wet cigarillo hissing a line of smoke into the path of the new sun’s rays cut the calm with the urgent slap of his voice, like the newspaper bunches that were delivered at the crack of four a.m. each morning. A crack of the whip, “Time to get serious!”. He tossed a bottle of water to the man in front of her, the man who would die, and looked at her, “No fainting!” his accent (Turkish?) thick but message clear (don’t you dare fall and hit your head in my store!).
“Thanks, I’m fine, really,” she choked out around her tongue…
These scenes poured out of me for months. First thing in the morning. Before I did anything else. Before the run I was also taking most mornings or walks on my off days. Before coffee and shower and clothes. Before talking to anyone. They aren’t meant to do anything other than get ideas of scenes in my head. They aren’t part of a plot, not part of a larger story. But they stay on in my shared Google drive where my writer friend, Suzanne, sometimes pops in and highlights something she wants more of. Or likes. Or thinks is a great hook. It’s a great practice.
I try to give myself these writing challenges whenever I can which brings me to the title of this post. Starting April 1 a few of my friends (two from college, a local writer, a NaNoer from Sweden) will be taking part in 100words for the month. It’s an easy way to get into the habit – you write 100 words, exactly, every day for a month. And at the end of the month your entries are published.
If you’re thinking about writing more regularly or have ever wanted to see if writing was something you’d enjoy there is no easier way than to commit to 100 words a day. 100 words is not much. But it’s a goal. It’s a limit. And it’s short enough to make you really think about how many words you use.
If you’d like to join us sign up (it’s free to join and use) and use #April100WordsChallenge when using social media so that we can all encourage each other. Get into a daily writing habit and see where it takes you. Who’s in?