Friday, October 5, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #5: You don't need a lot of words

In the 1920s, Hemingway won a bet that he could craft a story using only six words. It is said that he considered this his best work.

In 2010, author Patti Digh published a book of four word koans that nailed the beauty and the struggles of modern life.

In 1686, Matsuo Basho wrote three lines that changed the world:

an ancient pond
a frog jumps in
the splash of water

You don't need to write a lot, on your blog or in your life. But there is a lot of power in writing often. And this doesn't have to be a formal exercise, or a chore.

All three wordsmiths above probably sweated for hours at their respective desks to ensure that they arrived at just the right words. Economy usually requires a lot of editing... the kind that can make your brain really hurty.

But sometimes, restrictions on form can make playing with content really fun.

In haiku, for instance, there are a lot of rules and recommendations you can follow. I love writing haiku, even though I am sure that Basho would roll in his grave for some of the stuff I have written. But somehow, the challenge of squeezing something pithy out of five/seven/five syllables, is too good to resist.

Especially during those "lost" moments: waiting for a bus, standing in a queue, doing a 5km run, watching the spin cycle, timing the pasta on the stove.

How could you have fun with your words today?


  1. Hemingway´s six words story is the saddest I´ve ever read. I got to illustrate "Start saying I can" for Patti Digh! Need to look for the third wordsmith.
    My blog posts are always so much longer in my head! I write and rewrite them in my head so many times that by the time I actually write them only a few words are left.

  2. When I started blogging I used to be so very long winded but as time went on and my blogging reading grew I decided to cut my word count down. Lucky! There's not enough hours in the day as it is for me without composing, writing it then worse still editing! "Be bright be brief be gone" is my blogging philosophy now which allows me more time to read blogs and comment ;)

  3. I do stop sometimes during the day and pause to create a 6 word story. I have always been amazed that I can sum up a situation in 6 words. Thats really all I need. And then I chuckle.

  4. Liking this post, I've made it to Day 5 but thinking don't know how I will go the rest, it's a struggle finding the time as am sure it is for many! Perhaps I will work on a few 6 word posts while watching Playschool later ;) Re: "there is a lot of power in writing often", can you share what this power is, for you? Would love to know :) OK have to wake the Mighty Toddler...Cheers! x

  5. Its a joy to have motivation to sit down and write again i think i have so many unsaved word documents open because i find a little extra time to myself. It wonderful!

  6. Great post regarding how you choose to write, at the moment I choose breif through necessity, through having to juggle around kids asking "what am I doing?" or up too late like I was the previous night...yet I have made the personal commitment to blog every day and somehow it is becoming easier...a haiku just might be the next challenge I take on :)

  7. Thank you so much for those links - I love the story in 6 words, and did a blog post on it myself a while back but I hadn't come across the 4 word koans before :)

    Thanks also for your visit to my blog to invite me to take part in Blogtoberfest - unfortunately I'm so busy this autumn that I've decided against it (I'm the kind of person who would get very stressed about missing a day!!) I only have time now to check blogs because I stupidly sprained my ankle and have to spend today resting with my foot up..... But I shall drop by and read blogs as often as I can, especially looking out for my Creative Beast :)

  8. I love this post and it's a great reminder that we don't always need to use so many words to tell a story - this is my basis for my daily photo share as my way of participating in Blogtoberfest this year and its been great for me =-)

    Thanks for sharing all the yummy links too!