Make words count; don’t worry about word counts

How long should a piece of writing be? As long as the words count, I don’t care how many of them I write. But if a word doesn’t matter, it goes. This means I generally write shorter than many of my peers; fortunately I don’t get paid by the word.

Twitter has done the world a favor with its 140-character limit. It’s forced us all to write leaner, more concentrated prose, to make words count. In a world where Walmart alone generates 1 Terabyte of new data every day,* every byte we can eliminate should qualify as a public service.

Counting words, musical edition

I tolerate “flabby” writing in only one area: Art. If you’re not familiar with this song about writing from the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, do yourself a favor and press play.

You’re welcome.


*I heard the Walmart stat at a conference recently; I can’t find anything to back it up exactly. But this article talks about how much data Walmart collects. That’s not the same as generating new data, but it’s an even scarier amount:

“Walmart collects 2.5 petabytes of information from 1 million customers every hour. One petabyte is equivalent to 20 million filing cabinets worth of text – about 167 times the number of books in America’s Library of Congress. Every. Hour.”

If that isn’t enough to get you to eliminate unnecessary words, I don’t know what will.


One of my neighbors on WordPress alerted me to a thing called the “Happiness tag.” 

The deal is, I write about some things that make me happy and then tag fellow bloggers to do the same. Seems like a worthy endeavor, so here goes:

    1. Happiness is…five kinds of crayons

2. Happiness is…having interesting work to do (even if you have to work through the Wimbledon finals).

3. Happiness is…a decent pizza place just five minutes away.

4. Happiness is…practicing “15 minutes of creativity” every single day. Yes, even when you have to work through the Wimbledon finals.

5. Happiness is…connecting so deeply with a group of friends that you don’t need to see them for years, and then getting to spend real time reconnecting with them all over again.

6. Happiness is…Cape Cod Bay in the late-fall sunshine.

7. Happiness is…knitting on the sofa with the pooch and the spousal unit.

And how could I forget?

8. Happiness is…Stephen Sondheim

Okay, your turn. What makes you happy?