Word limit can be the worst idea when you are writing freely to express.
“How writing a 1000 words changed my life.” When I read this title of a blogpost, the first thought that came up in my mind is, seriously, 1000 words? As I read further, the writer, Srinivas Rao (author, storyteller and Founder of the popular podcast- Unmistakeable Creative) shared how writing can be therapeutic. My takeaway as a reader was the possibility that a significant portion of those 1000 words would be random stuff sometimes without any significant connection. It is just a way of unwinding, letting the thoughts flow as they come and simply putting them on paper without any restriction whatsoever. When you look at writing from that perspective, 1000 words is not difficult to reach. Simply write away.
The Word Limit Requirement
Word limits matter in test/exam situations, while writing for newspapers, magazines etc., In test/exam situations, the word limit is given so that the students try to express themselves simply to reach that word limit if not for anything else. Also, the other purpose is to make it easier from the teacher’s perspective. Marks allotted are determined by the word limit and he or she would not have an enormous amount to read in short periods of time. As for newspapers and magazines, the space is a constraint.
Writing Allocation and Word Limit
At the Young Executives Club comprised of 12–14 year olds, but hosted by me, writing allocations as they chose to call it, are essentially a list of writing prompts to choose from every week. While word limit is a necessity in the applications such as writing for a test/exam, newspaper/magazine etc., as a writer myself, I believe that simply writing for the purpose for word limit, kills the whole writing process, thus making it a chore.
We write to communicate. Unlike speaking, writing gives us the opportunity to reflect on what we want to communicate. By enabling our minds to run free and put all that in writing is a cathartic exercise and what’s more, it enables us to become better writers. As a rule, writing allocations given every week don’t have a word limit, for exactly this purpose.
If writing allocations don’t have word limit, how will they learn to write for the real world applications?
Writing freely first, rereading one’s own work to ensure that it communicates what is intended and then reducing unnecessary sentences and words to ensure word limit is the right approach. For instance, when I contribute an article for a newspaper, the editor gives me a word limit. However, I worry about the word limit only in the end- only after I finish writing what I want to convey about a chosen subject. Once satisfied that my write up is conveying what is intended, I use my precis writing skills to condense the write up to fit well within the word limit.
Sadly, the general practice is to always have the word limit as the goal and not the purpose of communicating. The Young Executives have learnt to write freely. Although at times the strive for perfection leads to self judgement, making oneself believe that one is not good at writing.
Perfection is boring
Communicating clearly to create impact is refreshing. As readers we don’t look for perfection, but we look for interesting and impactful reads. A book or an article that may be perfect in terms of grammar, format, word limit etc., may not get our attention as it simply is not saying something that we would be interested in knowing. The only way to catch the reader’s attention is to write freely, regularly and let time do it’s magic.