Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thousand Words, Part Two

I’ve had some questions about my “Thousand Words” post from on July 7, so I thought I’d add some clarification.

A thousand words can be a metaphor for whatever creative endeavor you’re into, whether it’s writing, scrapbooking, belt tooling—whatever. The thousand words for you could be two hundred words or three thousand words, or one scrapbook page, or three inches of belt tooling. You set the goal, and only you know whether you’ve met it or not. I write five, maybe six days a week. You might write three, and only an hour a day. All of us have different availability. Each one of us sets our own goals. Remember even small bits add up to something significant over time.

Sometimes I write a thousand words everyday for a week, spend the next week editing, and delete 4999 out of the 5000 I wrote the week before. The point is I wound up with one word that contributed to forward motion in my creative endeavors. I also worked on my craft, and that in itself is invaluable. Those 4999 words might be put into a file that’s labeled “words I haven’t used yet.” They might appear in some other work, so they really don’t get lost.

Reading books about writing is great, but no one learns to write except by writing. At a recent writing conference luncheon, I asked the man next to me what he’d written. He replied nothing. He just went to conferences to get better so he could write. I was stunned. This man is never going to learn to write until he puts his pen on the paper or his fingers on the keyboard and actually writes.

When I participated in NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month) last November by writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days, I had to let go of my firmly held practice of editing as I go. Nanowrimo is about getting the story down in all of its unedited, poorly written glory. All words count, even the bad ones. The words don’t have to be publishable, saleable or otherwise fit for anyone else to see. That comes later. I learned the truth of Anne Lamott’s words about getting out the first draft. The nonfiction book I’m working on now was first written in 2003. I’m not even cutting and pasting from the original document as my writing style has changed so much. I’m just starting all over. But the first draft is still important. It gives me bones to work with, and some details that I might have forgotten had I not gotten it down.

I set goals at the beginning of every year as to what I believe God would have me accomplish. I keep a log on my desk, and try to post my work every day. What if I don’t get my thousand words? I don’t worry about it, because another day I might get two thousand. I also allow for the times during the year I know it’s going to be impossible to accomplish a thousand words like Christmas and some weeks in the summer. I’m a Mom, and Madeleine L’engle says when you’re a writing Mom, you still have to stop and cook dinner. And I do. My friend Cheryl says, “People are more important than projects.” That means we have to allow for the unexpected to come in. We can’t make gods out of our creative endeavors. There may be some days God calls us to let go of our creative goals in order to serve or minister in some other way.

After all, the thousand words are all about him not us. I close with fifty-eight words from Hebrews as a reminder that even a few words can have long lasting influence.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20

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