Friday, November 4, 2011

LONGING TO BE SHORT? – A Man of Words in a 140-Character World

"Be sincere; be brief; be seated." ~ FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Brevity's an immense challenge for a writer. Mastering this craft is about one-third actually putting words on paper and two-thirds deciding which words not to put there. And the closer you are to what you're writing, the harder that gets.

They say brevity's even more important on the Web than in print. That depends. Sure, as a generation of texting, tweeting, sound-biting, multi-tasking readers imagines it can process more and more information, attention spans shrink. If we don't get the point across in the first few lines, they say, they've already moved on to someone else's come-on.

I hope it will be a long time before we're snarfing down ten-page novels.

But we writers must be careful to understand our audience—and ourselves—before we allow this admonition to dilute the flavors and colors of our craft. Certainly there's a place for brevity, but I hope it will be a long time before we're snarfing down ten-page novels.

I love that language can be more than a vehicle for information; it can be the medium for painting a picture. Pictures are complex. If I'm to draw readers into the scene with me as I recount a story, I want them to experience the same vistas, the same sensations, the same awe I did when I was there in the first place.

FREDERIC CHURCH – Heart of the Andes (1859) Metropolitan Museum of Art

The reason I experienced those things the way I did, and why I try to articulate them, is my belief that wonder seeks you out only when you've made room for it. You have to set aside distraction, expectation and constraints of space, time and, yes, word count.

And that's all I ask of my readers, whether it's in your first-hand experience of wonder, or the vicarious one I offer here. Be patient; make time and space for wonder to find you; open your senses and let the smoldering spark of your spirit be kindled.

So, the question facing this wonder blogger is this: for whom am I writing? Is it the content shopper, who's skimming for information, advice or the quickest way to accomplish something? Is it the broker, looking for substance, but mainly to parcel it out to others?

Readers…are asked to give something it seems is quite valuable these days: patience.

Or is it the reader? Readers—at least those I seem to be connecting with—are looking to experience something. To be transported, not necessarily to places they've never been, but to new ways of seeing and appreciating those places.

Readers understand that experiencing wonder is, in many ways, an act of generosity. They know that, both in the original experience and in the vicarious experience of it through another's words, they are asked to give something it seems is quite valuable these days: patience.

Maybe I'm preaching to the choir, but if you're still with me, thank you for being a reader. Thank you for that patience, that generosity. To anyone just dropping in for the first time, I hope you'll appreciate my selective avoidance of brevity, and that you won't be in a hurry to leave.

Of course, there will still be folks telling me to keep my posts to a few spartan paragraphs, a few bullet points, perhaps. "Who's going to read all that?" they'll ask. "Readers," I'll reply, tempered in my resolve. 

"Any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs there."



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