Word Sketches

One day I just started writing.  A magazine editor had casually said he found it hard to keep his short pieces down to 400 words, and that made me think.  400 words seemed so few, but it’s enough to say something clearly and cleanly.  So I wrote short pieces with exactly 400 words.

I had always been intimidated by writing, and afraid.  I attached too much importance to it and recalled the Freshman English professor who scrawled “BORING!” across a writing assignment in angry red letters.  They were probably actually tired, bored red letters, but they imprinted on my brain and glowed for another 24 years.

Instead of setting out to write something important, I decided to write like I sketch.  I remember art teachers instructing us to free up our hands, keep moving, catch the essence and general form.  “All right – 2 minutes!  Don’t be too precious!”  So I studied my subject, and the charcoal stick in my hand quickly recorded the shapes, the angles, the curves, light and shadows.  After a while I disappeared, and so did the distance from the subject.  As my hand moved, I felt the weight of the breast, the cold porcelain of the pitcher, the juice of the orange and smooth bumpiness of the peel.  I wanted that feeling when I wrote.

Quick sketches with watercolor, crayon and colored pencil

I have my own method.  First I type a word or two in bold letters, centered on the page.  My subject or still life.  That provides the structure and focus.  Then I just type.  Don’t get too precious.  No heavy editing – just a little erasing here, blend a little, correct the line slightly.  I just keep moving and record what I see and hear when I think “bread” or “bird” or “shell”.  Pretty soon I’m not thinking too much at all.  I just think of each piece as a little sketch, capturing a thought or a moment or a feeling.

When I drew, I had a hard time knowing when to stop and when to say something was good enough.  Sometimes those first bold lines were the truest, capturing the first impression with freshness and clarity.  It helped to have a limit and know that it was play, not a Rembrandt masterpiece.

Now when I write, I don’t worry where it will end up.  Each piece I write is like a message tied to a balloon and released into the air.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lfk04200
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 12:04:11

    Love this, Kim. As always, a few words from you translates into a large amount of guidance.


  2. The Edmonton Tourist
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 12:07:09

    Love this! You make writing come alive like the art it is 🙂


  3. Writing Jobs
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 12:15:56

    That was another excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a wonderful day!

    Enjoy writing? Join Us Today –

    Writers Wanted


  4. Trackback: Doors « Taste for Adventure
  5. The Retiring Sort
    Aug 05, 2012 @ 10:35:52

    This is a wonderful process – I love it. Great inspiration just to write a manageable bit each day!


  6. katekatblog
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 20:12:29

    Another way to combat the dreaded writer’s block! Thanks for this,


  7. Cheryl
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 17:09:20

    “Dont be too precious”… thats wonderful. And yes I have been told that, ‘dont edit just write’, but I have 2 problems, wayyy to self critical and wayy to chatty Kathy….
    400 words hummmm??


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