Sunday, January 31, 2021

Small goals, and one thing Twitter is good for

A few years ago, when I was in a writing slump, I decided to set some very small, manageable goals. Goals that would be fun rather than onerous. One was to write at least 100 words a day in my journal. They didn't have to be special words, good words, interesting words. The point was just to keep my writing habit going, and to set such a low-pressure goal that anxiety and judgment and other obstacles couldn't get in the way. 

The other was to participate in Creative Nonfiction's #cnftweet challenge once a week. The challenge is to tell a true story in one tweet, including the hashtag #cnftweet. The Creative Nonfiction magazine publishes selected tweets in its newsletter and magazine. For me publication was a bonus but not the primary goal; for me the writing itself was the main thing. I'd been veering more and more toward nonfiction, and I have always loved flash and micro lengths, so this was a timely exercise. I also enjoy reading the other cnftweeters' contributions; it has become a sort of loosely defined, fluid online community. And it was a thrill to have several of my tweets make it into issues of the magazine.

With the #cnftweets, unlike with my journal, I did concentrate on quality, seeking the telling detail, the vivid image, the apt turn of phrase. I see a micro story as one that delivers a specific concrete image but suggests a much larger story beyond the frame. And if it produces a laugh or a gasp as well, so much the better. 

My goal has been to come up with two #cnftweets per week, but I don't let myself agonize over this. Sometimes I've done three or more, sometimes one, sometimes none. I also don't agonize over the responses. I'm always delighted when others like them, but you don't always know what will strike a chord. I suspect every regular cnftweeter has had a carefully crafted tweet, one that makes them proud, draw few likes, while another tweet they'd thought of as almost a throwaway, the tweet they almost deleted, gets wild applause.

From these two practices, I regrew my writing habit. I have indeed written more and more nonfiction in recent years, although I've also been working on a long fiction project. The most important thing these practices did was to reconnect me with the joy of writing, the stability of having a steady flow of words. The words themselves sometimes snap and leap with life, and other times lie there limp with triteness, but that's the way the way writing goes. Finding the flow was what mattered.


  1. I so agree with you, Jennifer. Finding the flow with our words, the story within our experiences and our minds [for fiction] is what makes a good writer. Can we achieve it every time? Not me. I'm lucky if I achieve it once in a while.

    I love your definition of micro fiction: [a story] that delivers a specific concrete image but suggests a much larger story beyond the frame. Bravo. I write YA short stories; 1800 words. I can do that. I'm not sure of the word count for micro fiction.

    Good for you to find a way to keep writing, to keep finding the story within you. All best to you, my dear.

    1. Thank you! My best to you as well.
      I agree that flow is elusive and sporadic. When it happens, it feels magical.
      Maybe that's why we keep writing. :-)