The Skull Speaks

I’ve played with this chattering skull for forty years.

Yesterday I started a new story, called (for now) “Put Another Nickel In” and got about a thousand words on the page. The main character finally gave me his a name, Hunch, and I hit my word count goal. It’s a solid day’s work, considering the new habit I aim to build of writing a thousand words per day, every day, following the example of this Ray Bradbury quote:

“I’m accustomed, you see, to getting up every morning, running to the typewriter, and in an hour I’ve created a world. I don’t have to wait for anyone. I don’t have to criticize anyone. It’s done. All I need is an hour, and I’m ahead of everyone. The rest of the day I can goof off. I’ve already done a thousand words this morning; so if I want to have a two or three-hour lunch, I can have it, because I’ve already beat everyone.”

Consistency over quantity. The other way hasn’t seemed to work for me.

At some point in the night, though, I realized that Hunch wasn’t alone. I don’t mean all the monsters he’s tasked with keeping in their enchanted sleep, but as far as a true companion. There was someone else in that chamber of horrors, if I would only listen. Like Hunch and his monsters, though, I went to sleep.

When I got back to the keyboard this morning, I started by cycling back through those first thousand words and trying harder to hear what the story was telling me. Just a few paragraphs in, I found that missing party: Jaw, a talking skull in the corner of the room.

I kept writing, going back through yesterday’s words and continuing on to new story, all while listening more closely, and hearing his voice. He had plenty to say.

In the end, I hit my thousand-word count for a second day, found a new character, and learned more about the world I’m exploring.

I think that’s a fine definition of a successful day.

Bradbury quote taken from his essay “Shooting Haiku in a Barrel”, collected in Zen in the Art of Writing