Good afternoon, Cyberspace!
It is a
n un commonly known truth that I–the Cookie Queen–absolutely and irrevocably despise with a burning passion the most vile form of restraint that is commonly cast upon the writers of this day:
The Word Limit.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I believe that in some
extremely rare and therefore no cases, word limits can be a good thing.
Say, for example, in a story competition. There needs to be a ceiling on how many words you can barf out into your entry, because the people running said competition aren’t going to want to wade through 32,845 words per entry. Especially not if they were going to feature the competition winner in their rich and sassy magazine.
It just doesn’t work like that, peeps. And for this reason, I applaud the word limit. For this reason it serves a purpose. For this reason I can tolerate–however feebly–its disgusting existence.
But there are also many reasons I why absolutely despise the word limit, and while it does seem like a noble steed in these very obscure conditions, these small occurrences are just not enough to outweigh the horrendous things it has done.
And so, without further ado, allow me to present–
— Five Reasons Why I Absolutely Loath Word Limits (with all of the fiery passions of Mordor) —
— Reason One – It’s Annoying —
Yes, yes, this is a reason.
When I finally sit my pudgy self down to write a story, the VERY LAST thing I want to be worrying about is whether I have a word limit.
Seriously, now. Do you realize how annoying it is to find yourself happily typing away when–out of the very corner of your bulging right eye–you see it.
And it is rising.
And now you can’t help but keep glancing at it as you type, watching as it rises and rises and rises ever nearer towards that delightful word limit, and suddenly you’re panicking and stuffing your face with marshmallows because you haven’t even cleared your opening introduction yet.
I mean, do people even realize how crippling this is to a writer’s creativity? Do they?
No. Of course they don’t.
Which brings us to…
— Reason Two – It Is Crippling To A Writer’s Creativity —
Let’s think about this scientifically, shall we?
Scientifically speaking, a writer’s work is pure creativity. Sure, there’s the occasional research into the natural elements of life–such as how to diffuse a bomb and how long it takes to die from a pitchfork wound–but the nit and grit of it is that a writer is no different than any other creative profession. Like an artist. Or a sculptor.
Or a designer, or knitter, or painter, or sketcher, or a refurbisher-er
(?), or t-shirt designer, or blogger, or whatever.
It doesn’t matter. If you create something out of
nearly nothing, then you are a creator.
Thus the name creativity.
And writers are no different.
So, for example, let’s say we take that glorious sculpture someone has created out of basically mushy dirt paste, and we rip off its left arm because–hey! You went over your clay limit.
Too bad for you, sir. You’ll just have to live without your measly appendage for the rest of your existence, okay? Okay.
And also your foot because you’re still over by 43
words ounces of clay.
And of course this sounds ludicrous when we think about it like a sculptor having his sculpture mutilated right before his very eyes.
Obviously they should have taken a pickaxe to its face first.
Yet this is exactly what we’re doing to writers when we give them a word limit.
(of course we lose our clay appendages what are you talking about)
In fact, we even go a step further.
We make the writers do the deed themselves.
Because that makes so much more sense.
Oh. Your story is 643 words? Don’t worry. Here’s a dull blade.
Go lop its arm off.
When we give writers a strict word limit, we are making it physically impossible for them to tell the entire story that they are trying to tell. Sure, you’re going to get the important parts–like the head and the lungs and hopefully a kidney or two (if you’re lucky)–but as for that left arm and kankle foot?
Farewell, Sir Kankle
It’s not like vomiting an actual story that you’ve spontaneously combusted in your brain meats onto a page is hard enough, right?
HA. Of course not.
— Reason Three – It Kills My Writerly Soul —
Eleven times out of ten, when I have a word limit that I must abide by, it makes me 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 X’s more likely to rip my hair out and wet my keyboard with the drippings of my salty and shameful tears because I am constantly under a mountain of stress and pressure to include every single thing I love about my story whilst somehow, by the powers of the seven suns, keeping it under the 600 word limit.
Or however many words the
deluded psychopath (vile enemy???) word limit issuer has decided to grant upon my poor unfortunate soul.
Seriously, having a word-noose around my neck makes me want to do everything and/or anything besides actually writing, simply because I have no idea how in the world I’m going to fit a complex plot, three-headed troll, intricate side-quests, damsel prince in distress, and a beef burrito topped with cheese into 600 words.
Or less, of course. Because we’re nice.
— Reason Four – It Kills Actual
People Characters —
Do you know the precise amount of characters who have to be completely DELETED–ergo MURDERED–from a story just because the writer does not have enough words to compensate for them?
DO YOU, HUH? DO YOU???
The answer is A LOT.
Like maybe three.
But those three lives matter, okay? Just because YOU don’t think a mountain troll’s personal woes are relevant to the plot of a poor baker man living in an 18th century country village being invaded by aliens does NOT mean that they don’t matter to ME.
How dare you be so selfish, sir.
— Reason Five – It Makes Writing Seem Like a Hassle, Rather Than a Privilege —
You know that glorious feeling of having an empty page before you, just waiting for you to fill it with sparkling words that flow and dance across the page like a rippling river? You know that itch in your fingertips when you sit down to write a fresh story, the hushed voice that whispers to you that anything–fairies, dragons, that crazy-haired scientist living in his great uncle’s basement–is possible?
Yeah. That feeling is completely squashed like a potato beneath the weight of the word limit.
Not only does a word limit cripple a writer’s creativity, but it also cripples their will to
live write. A writer writes because they no longer want their thoughts to be caged. They write to set their characters and their world free, to unleash this story that is pent up within them out into the world, where it can grow and expand into more than just a thought swirling inside their head. A writer writes to give their story wings, to give it a new life, to give it a heart and a mind and a soul.
Forcing us to keep our words within a box makes this utterly impossible.
Where is the freedom when we know that we can only have a certain amount of words? Where is the freedom when our worlds are still trapped inside a cage? Where is the freedom when we are no longer in control of everything, including our word count?
Word limits grant no freedom, which makes the act of writing completely useless.
Because above all else, writers write to be free.
Well, that’s it for today, folks! What’d y’all think? Do you like word limits, or do they make you want to scream and tear your left arm off? Have you ever entered any story competitions (or written for a magazine or blog or newspaper, etc.) that forced you to have a specific word limit? What are your thoughts on this most disgusting creation? (Unless you’re for it. Then perhaps it is a marvelous ingenuity?) Let us talk about all of the word limit things down in the comments below!
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*