The Art of the 500-word Essay

14 08 2009

Earlier in the year, one of my friends introduced me to a writing collective called “Writing from the Heart.”  The blog was the brainchild of writer and NPR commentator Nancy Slonin Aronie, and an extension of her writing workshops.

Every month (or so), she posts a new topic, and the writers submit 500-word pieces in response to the prompt.  My friend told me, “her workshops draw stories out of yourself that you didn’t even know were there,” and that statement appears to be true of her blog, as well.

The topics are random things like:
– Tiny Murders

– PJs and Bathrobes

– Feet

– Here’s Why I Never Told You

They’re interesting topics, for sure, but they don’t seem out of the ordinary.  Until you start writing, that is, and trying to constrain yourself to the 500-word limit.  And then something magical happens: out of nowhere, your own voice emerges and starts telling the story you’ve always wanted to tell.  By necessity, you have to cut out excess.  The perfect words start jumping out from you and craft themselves into neat prose.

I’ve been trying my hand at a few of the prompts, and it has been both cathartic to tell my story and fascinating to experience this writing process firsthand.

I’ve heard the best way to become a better writer is to write.  So, if you’re interested, read through the archives and take your own crack at it!

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