Be Brief. Be Seated–The Art of Shutting Up.

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 6.56.05 AMGeoff Talbot’s blog, Seven Sentences , was the first thing I read today.   His goal–inspiring the world daily in just seven sentences. Brilliant. I am the opposite of “seven sentences.” I’m “seven million sentences.”  I look at what I wrote and say, “Holy crap! That’s long.” The monkey inside my mind laughs, and we fight. I win, telling him I will indeed cut my work in half and get to the essence of what the story should be. It’s never easy, and I have more than a few battle wounds. I get in trouble a lot–both in blogging and in email, where most of my colleagues communicate in pings and sentence fragments, and I rival Tolstoy.

I hired a “personal length assistant” to help me. I don’t actually pay him–in the real world he’s a fellow writer stuck in the body of an attorney turned HR training guru. Everyone knows you can trust an attorney, and he writes well, so I feel confident he’ll always tell me the truth. Since he has no shame in sending a forty-paged missive on the meaning of life, he understands the challenge.  But when it comes to proper writing–there is no negotiation.

“Dude, you are totally catching onto this length thing.  Kudos.  I shall continue to provide positive reinforcement, praise, and compliments when you comply.”

That is off-duty lawyer-speak for “Thanks for shutting the hell up–I’ve got things to do.”  I try. I’m not, I fear, going to reach the ideal of seven sentences. But I may save readers enough time to drink more coffee.

Geoff Talbot is living his dream.  He left his career, started his blog, and is making a film. The obstacles, he says, are part of the story. They make us a better–“Whatever obstacles you have to overcome–overcome them. Whichever people you need to help you overcome your obstacles–find them. Life is possible; live your dream.” An important message–a very timely one for me.

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 6.50.21 AMI’ve found so many good people lately. I’ll count Geoff on that list and thank him for saving me the trouble of finding him. In gratitude, I shall continue my quest for brevity, good writing, and overcoming obstacles , getting closer to the dream. Seems there are more obstacles lately than a well-produced Japanese game show. This is my second reminder in as many days that in overcoming them, we come out better on the other side.

Today, I’ll give my personal length assistant a day off–I’ll cut this post to the core and make it one of my shortest yet. If I’m lucky, I’ll be rewarded with more “positive reinforcement, praise, and compliments,” for complying.  Then I’ll use the four hours I could have spent writing a ten-thousand word post to stop global warming or save the public education system in the United States. And drink another cup of coffee. All of which are very worthy uses of my time. Join me in doing something excellent with the time you save reading today.



9 thoughts on “Be Brief. Be Seated–The Art of Shutting Up.

  1. I always worry about length. I write a post, go away, re-read, and cut half of it (more or less) before posting. When I go back and read my first blogs, I can definitely see a change in “wordiness”!

  2. The goal you should keep in mind in dealing with arbitrary guidelines such as “keep it to seven sentences,” is to remember while writing that the sentence is a very flexible structure that itself need not be short, but even without being run-on may achieve an impressive length, possibly even one such that seven of them would readily fill a page–or two.

    • I know–isn’t that the beauty of Dostoyevskian thinking? Love it–limitless…Kids ask me all the time, “How many sentences in a paragraph?” I refused to answer that question because I do not teach third grade. I say only that the sentences must relate in such a way that they rally the reader around the topic. And the reader is me, so try not to mess this up, kid… One day, I got annoyed. I brought in a “paragraph” from Russian lit (can’t remember which opus or I’d use it more) that was 12 PAGES!!! Told them I’d make them copy it to really get the sense of the beauty and depth of a true paragraph. Never got that question again:) On to higher-level thinking…

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