100 Words #338 - Creativity Through Restriction

100 Word Challenge writing promptSpeaking of disconnect...my laptop is in a coma. That's how I like to think of it. Not "dead", as people often say about their computers when they shut down and won't turn back on. "Dead" implies there's no coming back and I'm not ready to think about a new computer, so I prefer to believe my computer is in a coma and any day now is going to wake up.

In the meantime, this "coma" my laptop is in has coincided with house/cat sitting for a friend. There's no television here, no stereo, and even my phone doesn't get service here. Just like that my ties to media have been severed cleanly.

In a day and a half I have eaten at a café, shopped at a local grocer for my next few meals, read 1/2 of one business book, three chapters of a book about the environment, and 2 chapters of a book on Dzogchen Buddhism. I've done yoga, meditated, and napped. I've taken two walks and one long bike ride. I've taken photos, and done some doodling/sketching.

meditation cushion

I'm writing this post on my daughter's laptop, which she kindly dropped off for me for a few hours so I could write this post and send out a few emails. Then it will be back to the no-media-silence.

Clearly I need to be more careful with what I wish for. The yearnings for media silence I expressed in last week's post have been answered, which is fine, I just wish it didn't have to be in a way that is potentially going to cost me a lot of money I don't have. That's the trouble with wishing and yearning - we can't control the delivery method.

Stack of books

Anyway, in Rework, the authors talk about restrictions leading to creative results. They advise us to "embrace constraints". By making do within limitations one has no idea what interesting thing might come of it. And though they're generally talking about business, they mention writing:

Writers use constraints to force creativity all the time. Shakespeare reveled in the limitations of sonnets (fourteen-line lyric poems in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyme scheme). Haiku and limericks also have strict rules that lead to creative results. Writers like Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver found that forcing themselves to use simple, clear language helped them deliver maximum impact.

This has always been the purpose of the 100 Word Challenge, to create a constraint that forces a certain type of creative writing. Creating a 100 word vignette that can stand on its own is not easy (though it gets easier with practice), but it is an excellent exercise. It pushes you to show, not tell. It demands trimming the fat - an overall economy of words. And if you let yourself get lazy with it, it's going to show up right away. There's not much hiding room in only 100 words.

So this week, the word is:


Start with fresh eyes this week word-warriors. If you've fallen into a routine with 100 words, try to shake things up, you know, rework it. And if you haven't been pushing yourself enough, you can totally imagine me as your drill sergeant barking, "DROP AND GIVE ME 100 WORD NERD!"

You know, if you need that sort of thing.