On Starting Small: Six Word Short Stories

The city that I live in has a mild climate – we live in a rainforest. Each summer we get a couple of weeks of rain that washes down the city, returning it to cleanliness and coolness. I expect this.  As a pale skinned, sweater-loving person, I long for it. This year however, our summer has remained hot and dry, with heat wave following heat wave… And while I’ve enjoyed the chance not to have to carry an umbrella – my apartment is unusually warm.

No one I know has been sleeping well and it’s hard to keep focused on writing, or knitting, or anything really but keeping cool and eating ice cream. I’ve been spending a lot of time bike riding and reading in the park as I’m finding it hard to stay alert after being at my day job all day. While this leisure time has been a blissful break in a year that was so full of events and long solo nights of writing,  part of me is wistfully thinking about getting back into the projects that just seem too warm to touch right now.

Pepper my cat

I’m overly warm, but this one in the fur coat – she goes straight to laying in the sunbeams.


I have a lot of ideas, but in this warmth,  I can’t think straight. I fidget. I have to remind myself to start small, microsmall – one word, one stitch.

For those who have never written or are trying to find their stories for the first time – I suggest the same, one small thing always leads to the next, and starting small will eventually leads to bigger things. (Don’t believe me, well then watch my friend Kim Werker’s recent CreativeMornings talk Crafting to Fail)

Tonight I’m meeting my writers’ group (in the park of course, it is just too hot to be outside) – and I’ll do my best to start small, to start writing again. I’m starting with the tiniest of micro-stories – stories made of just six words. Inspired by a famous bar bet that Ernest Hemingway made, thousands of people have tried to come up with something as prosaic and succinct as his, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

They’re silly but fun  – and they are short enough to make little embroidered stories, if you feel like stitching in the shade. Just as ‘beach novels’ to be a bit frivolous and sloppy, I ‘m going to adopt the idea that my summer creativity should be the same way. If you’ve never tried a six word short story before, try it out. They’re rather addictive once you get going.

PS: when the fall hits, I’m going to be a firestorm of productivity. Look, I’m teaching a class on Subversive Craft and community projects at Seattle’s Schoolhouse Craft Conference.

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