The Short Form

The short form crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry

The short form crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry

For the past seven months, I’ve been writing, publishing, broadcasting and posting short form essays at a rate of more than two a week. This has been gratifying work, connecting with my various audiences who listen to my broadcasts, subscribe to my blogs, and read me in The Rutland Herald.

Even my pen-for-hire work tends to be in the short form, from 400-word profiles to 700-word essays.

I’ve come to love the short form, which forces me to choose the exact words I need and to arrange them in the most effective order. The short form requires clear emphasis to establish a sharp focus all while telling a very short story. I think of the short form as a hybrid that crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry.

I like the short form, and I think I’m good at it, at least most of the time. But I long for the long form.

I have two book-length projects in different stages: an incomplete rough draft of a novel and a rough idea for a long piece of non-fiction.

I long to write in the long form of books.

I long to write in the long form of books.

These two long thoughts keep me company like imaginary friends. They comfort me at the oddest moments: in the shower, in traffic, in my dreams. When I can, I jot down notes of ideas and tuck them away for later. If later ever arrives, I’m not sure I’ll be able to find them, but I don’t worry about that. I still have the ideas. What I haven’t yet found is the long time in which to write the long form.

The short form suits my current life, which has been interrupted by both duties and delights. The long form requires more consistency than I’ve managed lately.

I’ve managed the long form before, so I know I can do it. I even know how: rise and write – before breakfast, before chores, before coffee. But I’ve been resistant, which is normal; now I’m tired of that, which is good.

I'm setting off to hike the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains, the length of Vermont.

I’m setting off to hike the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains, the length of Vermont.

In need of a kind of reset so that I can double down by getting up early to work at length before pounding out short form pieces later in the day, I’m setting off on a long walk. Walking never fails to help me find my writer’s voice, so I’m looking forward to listening for it as I hike The Long Trail, which follows the spine of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada.

I’ll be carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, and a camp stove, as well as a pen and paper. I’m sure I’ll be writing, but I’ll be offline for a month. I’m looking forward to being unplugged. Before I leave, I plan to schedule some reruns of favorites, both here and on my personal blog.

Barring bears, broken limbs or other unforeseen mishaps, I expect to plug in again in mid-September. In the meanwhile, I wish good words to you all. –Deborah.

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin hikes and writes in Vermont and on the web at





14 thoughts on “The Short Form

  1. Gotta say, getting ideas while driving can be dangerous…… Ugh, but I think short stuff can be poignant as well… I’m just often left wishing for more when it was well done.

  2. Thanks so much for your good wishes, Arjun. Please check back here or on my personal blog ( in for stories from the trip. Meanwhile, I’ll be scheduling popular posts to republish while I’m on the trail. Be well.

  3. A nice long hike/camping trip is sure to inspire you and get you ready to tackle the long form again. I’m envious that you can take the time off to go on such a journey while the rest of us slog away at our computers. Safe journey. We look forward to your return.

    • Laura, It’s great to see you here!
      I certainly do hope the hike is both inspirational and restorative and not a misguided attempt at recapturing lost youth. Age is partly what’s motivating me, but so is recapturing joy. I want to return to my computer with enthusiasm. Maybe after slogging through the woods, I will. All best, Deborah.

  4. I certainly hope you can get all the notes and ideas down somewhere and time to write the long form in life soon. I think I left some of it a bit late because now I have this novel flowing but the worry I may not have enough of life to get it all down. The short form particularly stories 50 words, 100word and 400 words I still love BUT oh the passion for the longer in many way still unfulfilled. Thanks for blog.

    • Thanks for your good wishes, Faye. I know the feeling of time flying by. I hope the hike actually helps me regain the focus I need to work in the long form again. Best wishes, Deborah.

  5. Pingback: Hiking The Long Trail - Deborah Lee Luskin

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