This story was originally posted on shanepaulneil.com
The wife and I drove to Vermont for her friend’s 50th birthday this weekend. It was a lovely time. During the party, I spoke to a woman who is a writer who after a very long layoff decided that she was going to finish the novel she started over a decade ago.
“It’s been great to dive back in”, she told me, “but rebuilding the writing muscle has been a challenge”.
“Write haikus”, I told her. “Write as many haikus as you can”.
Before I get into the incredible value of the Haiku we need to start with a basic writing truth.
Writing often involves not writing at all. Sitting for an hour, thirty minutes even, count as writing. The attempt to write is as valuable as the attempt to work out. If you put on your spandex, went to the gym, looked at all the equipment, and decided “Nah, not today”, it counts whether or not it feels like you are one step closer to achieving your goal. If you sat down and tried to write it’s a win.
That said, if you want to step past the blinking cursor I find that the Haiku is a terrific writing exercise because it is both simple and constraining. A Haiku is too short to be intimidating. Tell me a story in seventeen syllables, three lines, five/seven/five.
It’s an easy exercise to create the habit of putting words on paper (or screen) while being corny enough that you aren’t hung up on crafting the perfect verse (until you are).
If writing a novel is pushing a boulder up a mountain the Haiku is pushing a pebble up a hill.
Push enough pebbles and you’ll make your own boulder.