The 270

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.

Please feel free to share this post on your favorite social media below.  Thanks.

About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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32 Responses to The 270

  1. karinvandenbergh says:

    Great idea and a good exercise indeed.

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  3. Thanks for the challenge. I hope you enjoy mine.

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    • J T Weaver says:

      Thanks Joyce. I liked your story and have re-blogged it on my site. Thanks very much for trying this out. I’ve done 4 of them now and the re-write/compress exercise is starting to work.

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  5. knitwit56 says:

    What a great challenge. I just posted mine!

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  7. A great idea. I don’t know if I will be able to take part, but I know I need to write with more clarity and discipline. My style is a ramble at best… 😛

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  8. Julie Phelps says:

    Thanks for the challenge.
    I often write in a random stream of thought way, expressing whatever came into my head without much modification or tightening up. You inspire me to train my brain now.

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  9. JT, Thank you for this motivation. I tried this with fifty words once to get a feel for the fit. Of course it didn’t stick. A lot like tear away clothes. I’ll try again though. I’ve tried this now with 270. The boundaries are good for quick blog reads. Compressing words and expanding thoughts reminds me of giving “life saving” CPR. Sometimes I save one.

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  10. Interesting…I should try this out for today’s blog post! I was thinking of going back to writing daily to straighten up my mind and spirit, you know!

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  11. ptero9 says:

    I will leave this post open on my browser and if time allows I’d love to take up the challenge! Great idea!

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  12. Oh dear. Winding up again. 😉

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  13. JT. I have read much of what you offer here. This is some of the most insightful and concise writing on wordpress that I have seen. I like the challenge and will work on it. Great idea!

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    • J T Weaver says:

      Thank you very much Donald and that’s wonderful news. I look forward to your work on “the 270.” Please let me know so I can feature it here. Good luck, it’s a VERY tough assignment.

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  14. I’m a sucker for Hemingway. I think your 270 challenge is an awsome idea. I’d like to try. I’m currently working on less words for more thought in my own work, strangely enough. I huge problem of mine.

    Have a great day,
    Audrey

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  15. J T. I was afraid that when you published your memoir that you thought you were done writing. I am glad that you have realized that you have so much more to say. I don’t comment every time, but I do come back to your blog often.

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  16. Interesting challenge… hmmmm…. have I picked up the gauntlet that was thrown? We’ll see…

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