Celebrate Like Someone Forgot to Lock the Gate
I just learned something new about writing. After 25+ years of pounding the keyboard, I’m still surprised by how much I have to learn.
In future blogs, I’ll write more about these discoveries. For now, I want to share my observations about a writing technique my friend and colleague Virginia McCullough taught me: 100 x 100.
You may have heard me extol the virtues of this technique, but it bears repeating. 100 x 100 is so simple: Just promise yourself to write 100 words for 100 days. No skipping days (though like a diet, if you do miss a day, just start again). I mean, honestly, who can’t write 100 words a day? They don’t have to be brilliant words, just 100 words that relate to a book you’re writing. (If you're writing a blog or article, you won't need 100 days, so adjust accordingly.)
100 x 100 has worked wonders as I write my sequel to A Life for a LIfe: A Mystery Novel. I already knew this technique was more Psychology 101 than Writing 101. The easy-to-complete assignment of just 100 words gets me started typing, something I may have been putting off for both good and silly reasons. By the end of the session, I've written 354 words. Or more!
What I didn't know was this technique works even if I don't know what's going to happen next in the story. For the sequel I'm writing, I don't know how the middle story will play out. I've plotted only the broadest of scenarios; I know the beginning and the ending, but not how to shepherd my characters toward the denouement. So, how could I possibly sit down and write anything?
Well, here's how. When I practice 100 x 100, my muse jumps in and comes up with the most amazing new directions—precisely because I don’t know where the story is going. Previous books I’ve written have been carefully laid out in advance. Oh sure, there was always plenty of room for improvisation, but I knew where I was headed. I thought that was essential. Now I realize that's not necessarily the best way to get interesting results.
We all have so much creativity inside us, just waiting to get out (like I recently wrote about in “Fear of Creativity”), and 100 x 100 fosters it. This technique sets the stage for your muse, your God, your subconscious—whatever you call your inspiration—to guide you toward something more creative than your rational brain could ever fashion. It all comes down to trust—in yourself, your creativity, in the great Unknown. Give it the space it deserves, do your part about showing up at the page, and watch your story unfold.
I keep a charming birthday card I received years ago pinned on a bulletin board above my computer. A happy dog with its tongue hanging out is running across an open field. Inside, the message reads: Celebrate like someone forgot to lock the gate.
That’s what 100 x 100 feels like.
Would you like a free copy of the short story that started my fiction-writing career: “A Nose for Murder”? Just sign up below, and I’ll send you your own copy to enjoy. And from time to time, I’ll keep you posted with musings about writing and updates on my sequels to A Life for a Life and other books.