Recently I completed a writing exercise to help keep my mind active and my writing fresh. As most of you know, I usually write stories that are in the 1000 word range and they seem to end when they end. I’ve never been a ‘word count geek’ but I do notice that each of my posts are about the same length.
In recently months I have had several discussions about Abraham Lincoln, more specifically about his 270 word Gettysburg Address. While this speech was almost ignored in 1863, it has become the standard for written clarity and economy and used in every elementary school in both History and English classes. I had also ignored it since a 5th grade teacher tried to force me to memorize it. But now, I’ve been trying to understand why it’s so important to the writing art and how I can use it to advance and improve my own writing.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing Family – An Introspection without much success. The writing, re-writing, and editing of it has occupied my mind for weeks. What started out as a normal post became an exercise in clarity. I had never imagined how difficult it would be to compress words, yet expand thoughts all in one piece of writing. I was finally able to publish it on Jan. 9th, although I’m not sure I will ever be satisfied with it. I began to look for other examples of this type of clarity and found these two:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This is, of course from the famous John Kennedy speech. But this part of the speech started out as more than 600 words and emerged at one of the most succinct 17 words ever spoken.
The Hemingway Challenge is to write a story in just six words. His famous “For Sale: Baby shoes, never used” illustrates that there can be power, drama, and clarity in each word.
I offer this challenge then to you, the followers of my blog. Write a story or an essay, (not poetry) on any subject and limit it to 270 words. You can use any Tag combinations you want, but include the tag: “the 270” in your tag list. In this way, we will build a new tag offering for WordPress readers that offers a new type of writing for our reading public. At the same time, I would be happy to feature your efforts on my blog as they are produced. I look forward to your offerings.
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