23 words · poetry · Writing

23 Words

“Hey, Sally, you’re a writer, aren’t you?”

A guy asked me this at the front desk the other morning. I’m not exactly sure what he had heard about me or where. I hesitated.

“Umm… I’ve done some writing,” I said.

“Do you have a blog? Do you have followers?” he asked.

Is that what makes a person a writer? A blog? Followers?

“I used to write every day,” I told him, “but once I dropped the habit, it was really hard to pick it back up.”

Is that true, or what? I don’t care what the habit is, but once you give yourself permission to break it, it’s all downhill.

Every diet I have ever tried has fallen prey to just-this-once permission.


“I have a plan for writing next year,” I told the man. “I’m going to write 23 words every day.”

He looked at me like I had just said I was going to hop on one foot barefoot in the snow every single day. Problem #1: there’s no snow here in July therefore I couldn’t possibly do THAT every day.

“23?” he repeated back to me.

“Yes! I can write 23 words,” I said.

He looked puzzled. “But why 23? Is that like the 23rd Psalm or something?”

I laughed. “No, because it’s 2023. And 23 well-chosen words sounds like a good challenge, and one I can do.”

“Just 23?”

“That’s the challenge — don’t you see? To choose 23 words — just 23 — no more, no less,” I replied.

“What are you going to do with them?” he asked, clearly still bewildered.

“I’ll post them on my blog,” I said.

“You know, some people just write in a journal,” he said.

I sighed.

I DO write in a journal. Every day. Journalling is, for me, a form of remembering and processing. It’s not writing.

Not like 23 words.

Hopefully this will go better for me than my last personal challenge.

Anyone care to join me?

A sample —

23 words I wrote today after a busy, busy day at the gym where I work:

So many visitors!
In that sea of unfamiliar faces
it is nice
to see a familiar one
a smile
a wave
a friend

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