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1,000 Words

January 12, 2015

1,000 words. Raymond Bradbury started out writing 1,000 words a day. He did it for ... what did he say, 10 years? Or the Outliers equivalent of 10,000 hours. In any case, he practiced and prepared. He wrote. He became. Word-association stories, he called doozies like “The Veldt,” which I reread tonight with creepy astonishment and awe at Bradbury’s imagination. Inspiration hit him and he wrote. None of this, oh, yeah, that’d be a great idea for some day. No way. I need to act. To write. To practice like Bradbury. To simply fucking do it. He reminds me of Yoda or our friend Kennedy. There is no try, only do. And if at first you don’t succeed … you know what they say, pour yourself a cocktail and try again.


So what is this thousand words supposed to look like? Must they be cohesive? Must they form into plots with characters and descriptive language and a context and vivid setting? What elements are each 1,000 words to hold? And are they all supposed to be strung together, interlocking pieces of a larger puzzle, every day chipping away at the enigma in the hopes of deciphering and constructing its larger meaning, weaving into a story or essay or book? Maybe it’s just a brain dump, a place to let one’s mental feces fall steaming hot onto the pavement of the blank page. A repository for waste that wants not to become anything more than it already is … just words. Just. Just. Just. Words. 256 words so far. A quarter of the way there. What else shall I write about?


How about a few story ideas. … Ok. Hmmm…. Yep. We’ll have to come back to that one. Bradbury said that he was successful at writing because it wasn’t hard work. Because he wrote about the freaky shit that he’d always loved and learned about. What do I love and know and learn about that would translate well into fiction? I have no idea. I have never really been drawn to fiction. But why not? There is so much freedom in it. Anything can happen. Anything. I think I have a pretty active imagination, but I am so unrealistically grounded in reality and interpreting and writing about my life and everything in it, that I discount or don’t listen to or don’t allow the fire to ignite such a different creative endeavor. Make something up? Anything? Let my mind go to bad places? Imagine both wonderful and horrible things? It’s scary and wonderful, like a foreign country.


How about a few book ideas. … No. Maybe not now. My husband has just come in to lay on the bed and tell me about the prolific sneezing that has come with his cold. Did Bradbury have to worry about his wife’s sneezing when he was trying to write 1,000 words? I just read a quote about a writer who used to put a large red paper dot in the middle of his forehead when he was writing to indicate to his family that he was in the throes of creative composition and to NOT bother him. I need a red dot. I don’t know, however, if my family would pay any attention to it. I don’t know if I would ever take it off. Red dot--see? Don’t bother me! 555 words. Woo hoo! Half way there. Now that was painless. And yet, I’ve not really written anything that could be considered productive toward publishing, unless I’m publishing an online journal or blog post. Even then. Ew. Who would read this shit?


Am I allowed to stop in the middle of this 1,000 words? Can I do 250 in the morning, 250 in the afternoon. 500 at night? Can I do it in 20 sittings? Bradbury didn’t say anything about having to write it all at once. That could make it more doable every day. Splitting it up. Then again, doing it all at once helps me practice my focus and follow-through. And, seriously, I have learned over and over that there is no time like the present. If I actually find or create the moment where I can sit down and write, then hell if I should get up and stop that creative process because getting started again might not ever happen -- I’ll either get distracted by something sparkly or dirty or barky or whiny, and the page will be left dangling like some sad participle at the end of a poorly finished sentence that maybe never actually became a sentence at all.


It occurs to me that in all the things I seek moderation -- anxiety, booze, procrastination, conflict, etc. -- writing is not one of them. Writing is the one thing that I should seek in excess. It should replace all other excesses with its own flamboyant over-doneness. Over do it. Do it to the nth degree. Encourage its largesse. Quantity over quality. Eventually that quantity will become quality. Like Bradbury. All those days and thousands of words and dozens of stories sold and published and countless accolades furnished upon him, but only after all of that over the many years did he actually and finally write what he considered to be “the first really good story of my life”--”The Lake.”


Ah, here it is … Bradbury wrote 1000 words a day for 10 years. Writing one short story a week. Cohesion, then. He wrote a draft a day until Saturday, when he mailed it out. 911 words. Nice. Well, I suppose if I become less concerned with the 1,000 words and more concerned with what those words are, I may actually accomplish something here. A former colleague and writer friend of mine and I tried to start a distance/online writing support group with each other. 500 words a WEEK was all we asked of each other. We couldn’t even keep up with that. But, here I am, already 985 words into my day of 1,000 words, and I’m thinking I could really do this. Now, to get some ideas flowing and really nail this shit to the wall. 1017. Woo hoo! 1020.

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