Sunday, February 26, 2012

Conversations on Writing, When a Writer Writes Too Much: If you Want People, Move in the Short Direction

The Morning:

"You might want to consider making your blog posts shorter."
"Yeah. I know."
"If you want people to read them. If you want to write just for you then I guess it doesn't matter."
"Well, I don't know if I agree. I have mixed feelings about that."
"I'm just saying if you want people to read it, shorter is better."
"People don't have the attention span to read for that long."
"Mmm hmm."
"That's why people read the paper. They want the essentials. They tire easily. They want you to get to the point."
"I know what you're saying. It's something to consider. It's just. I don't know. I don't know if that's me."
"All I am saying is that if you want people to read, then you might want to consider what they are capable of reading. If you don't care whether or not people read your writing and you are writing for yourself, then it doesn't matter and you can keep doing what you are doing."
"Maybe I am for a select audience."
"That's fine if you don't mind that most people won't read what you write. They won't be able to. Remember the first writing piece of yours I ever read - the one about your mother that you wrote at Hampshire?"
"That was long."
"It was supposed to be long. We were required to write a twenty page paper. It wasn't my choice. Not that I wouldn't have made it that long on my own. But that is what I was asked to do."
"Maybe that's where you got the idea that longer is better. Maybe your English teachers in high school gave you the wrong idea."
"No, I don't think I can blame it on any of that. I was writing never ending stories long before that. I didn't start writing until I was a Junior in high school. Before then, I was just writing the longest letters imaginable. And long scripts. Look at me now, I haven't changed much since then. I guess I like to write that way."
"Uh huh."
"It's definitely something to think about. I want people to read my writing. I do want people to read it."
"Then make it shorter, if you want that. If you are writing a thesis, then long is good. But I don't think you are writing a thesis. You are not doing work that involves academic research or theory."
"I'm a thesis writer without a thesis. Being long-winded is part of my identity as a writer. Of course, I am always evolving and so my identity can change. Not likely, but a possibility. I want to be able to try a variety of styles - to write short and long pieces."
"To be versatile. That's a good goal."
"Remember the comments the editor of the Comstock Review made - that poetry journal I really wanted to have publish my work? She wrote, "Entirely too long" on my poem. It was "Travels." And I consider that a short poem. That is one of my short poems. That's funny."
"Yeah. Aech."
"Poetry journals want the poem to be short because they want it to fit on a page. They only have so much room for each poem."
"That doesn't seem like a good reason to shorten a poem to me. Just to fit a page. You write a poem to fit within some arbitrary margins instead of letting it be what it should be."
"Maybe it doesn't need to be as long as you think. Maybe it just provides an opportunity for you to put the very best of the poem into the allotted space."
"Maybe. Do you find me to be stubborn and resistant?"
"Defensive, perhaps?"
"I'm always defensive. I'm never defensive. I won't get philosophical on you."
"I liked your Emily Dickinson poem."
"Putting on Emily Dickinson's clothes?"
"Good. I'm glad."
"I checked out the other poems."
"Oh yeah? The ones by Billy Collins and Hannah Trees?"
"Yes. I noticed that they were both much, much shorter than yours."
"I guess. I like my poem. I like this one long."
"I really liked it, too. What I read of it. I really liked the beginning. But then it became too much work and I couldn't keep reading it."
"I don't think I will change that one."
"I'm not saying you should. I'm just telling you that I couldn't get myself to read the whole thing."
"Good to know."
"I really liked what I read, though."
"I'm not sure I could get myself to make that one shorter. I like it too much."
"Maybe with the next one you can think of it. Think of someone like me. I want to read your writing. I'm someone who wants to, and I can't get through it. It's too much work. It's too hard."
"I am conflicted. I kind of like that it's too hard to get through. But I want it read. I will start working on it. On getting to the point."

Later the Same Morning:

"I wrote a short poem. It's called Short Feminist Poem. Can I read it to you?"
(Reads "Short Feminist Poem") "What do you think?"
"That's not exactly what I had in mind when I said short. That doesn't seem very short."
"Are you kidding? That's as short as it's gonna get. That's short. For me, that's short. At least it's a step in the right direction. The short direction."

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