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- by Lindy Schneider
Today I have set myself the task of writing to a word count, for I am apt to generally wander over any set limits, and approach a word limit in much the same way as a builder approaches a quote– i.e. always factor in another 20-30%!
Whilst it will take well over 30 minutes to write this draft, you will read it in less than a tenth of that time.
Three and a half minutes seems to be all anyone can spare to read anything these days. I know in my life, three and a half minutes is about as long as I get alone before a child is at my knee ordering more juice, or to be read a book.
I love words. I love reading. I love writing. I always have. I always will. I love the smell of a new book, and don’t see myself ever being attached to a Kindle. But the truth is, with the encroachment of Twitter, Facebook, even texting into our lives, it seems that most people just want to read the shortest possible way home.
In the process, I fear our language is being macerated and that we are losing the very essence of a life filled with beautiful words. Instead we try to say it all in less than 140 characters. Get to the point and get on with it.
What if my favorite poet Pablo Neruda had adhered to the less is more word economy of today?? The opening line of Ode to a Beautiful Nude, “With a chaste heart, with pure eyes I celebrate your beauty…” would become “UR a QT”
A friend last week shared enthusiastically how much she liked reading my writing. But, she said, she found herself scanning quickly through rather than reading them properly and we discussed how trained we are now to expect bullet points and our information mainlined.
The Web has certainly been a catalyst for succinctness, but it would be narrow minded to suggest that all writing for the Web be stripped to its essence for the sake of brevity. In this context the Web is simply a vehicle for publishing articles, one of many publishing destinations.
I cannot compromise pleasurable writing for word economy. Victor Nell author of Lost in a Book, talks about ludic reading (reading for pleasure) and how the Web environment works against such writing. “Read a nice sentence, get dinged by IM, never return,” he says, and there is truth in that.
Lets not get too caught up in brevity at the expense of beauty. Lets slow down as we read and savour the selection of words. Lets slow down and savour life.
Writing is a wonderful and creative process.
Reading wonderful writing is a simple pleasure worth lingering over.