Amaranthine

I write too much.
Not so much that I update more often than I need to, but that when I get going on a topic I frequently have trouble getting myself to stop. It's an issue I've been aware of for a long time. Pretty much as long as I've been writing stuff for the web. But especially now as my work is starting to find it's way to other outlets. Especially as the web continues to lean towards becoming something people look at on a screen on their phone.

I mean, on this blog I have the freedom to do what I want. Write pages of ideas and ramble through whatever topic I'm focused on at the time. But lately I've been sending stuff around for review and publication -- and all it ever seems I do anymore is edit things down. Slash and burn.
I'm frequently wordy. Expository. Loquacious. Garrulous. Voluble.
I don't know -- I like the way I write. I enjoy the process. I actually take pride (especially in my more topical pieces) in the way my pieces work through ideas and try to set things up. But more and more when I see the same words against a background other than this blue blogspot color scheme, the more I realize that the posts I write are simply too long for the web. Perhaps too much for magazine or newspaper standards as well.

I love that people check in on this site and read my stuff. Consider what I put down on the page. Comment and discuss.
But would my overall readership be wider if my entries were shorter?
The weird thing is, the stuff I post on here is edited down. The originals are usually a lot more scattered and loose. My former writing professor, mentor, and good friend Rick Straub was always a big proponent of what he would sometimes called the "splatter theory." We'd talk about writing and he'd always be like, "Just spill the paint all over the canvas. Go Jackson Pollock with your ideas on the first pass. But then when you're done take a good hard look at what's there and edit, edit, edit. Never ever hesitate to take a chainsaw to your own work."
"Good writers are great editors," he would always say.
I haven't thought about it in a while -- but back in the day Rick would get on me quite a bit for writing too much. He was always easygoing about it, but he'd go back to the point again and again.

Anyone who ever had Rick Straub as a teacher knows all too well what it was like to twist and turn your pages sideways to read the hand-written comments he would scrawl in the margins. Cryptic underlines, circles, and exclamation points.

And if you were really lucky, there would be a note at the end sort of summarizing his impressions of the piece.

It's weird, because in a lot of ways I'm a totally different writer than I was then. It was college. My ideas and themes were similar, but whenever I look back at pieces from those days I notice how much more unfocused and aggressive the pacing of my pieces would be. I still like a lot of the stuff I did in those days (I was a regular contributor to a locally published magazine as well), but it sometimes feels like I'm reading someone else's imitation of the writer I am now.

I remember Rick once telling me, "Part of the problem is that you're too attached to your jokes. And I hate saying that, because you're a funny guy. I laugh reading your stuff. But sometimes you waste energy and words setting them up. Everything you put on the page should add to your point. Anything that doesn't needs to get cut. It's your ideas that make your stuff worth reading. Focus on that."
I wonder what he'd think of my writing now, if he were still around to see it.
So many of my favorite authors are concise in their approach. Their work is filled with open spaces. Pauses in the music. There's room to think and consider the things they are talking about. In some ways I try to emulate that -- but it's almost like even when I'm hitting the right groove, I'm still playing much more than the song calls for.
Reminds me of my favorite Miles Davis story:
I don't really have any way to verify if this is true or not (although I believe that it is) -- but the story goes that one day Miles Davis was talking with John Coltrane, and he asked him why he tended to play so many notes on his saxophone whenever he played a solo. And after thinking about it for a moment, Coltrane answered,
"Whenever my solo comes up, I'm thinking about the mood of the song. The feel of the changes. And so when I start playing notes, I'm trying to explain what I'm feeling through the music. And as I'm building that idea I'll start getting other ideas, so I'll play those too -- and the next thing you know I've got all these musical ideas cascading down on top of each other. It's like a stream of consciousness that sometimes I don't really have any idea how to stop."
And after hearing all of this, Miles Davis looked back at Coltrane
and says,
"Have you ever tried taking the horn out of your mouth?"
I don't know -- what do you guys think?

[Listening to:  The Cure - "Other Voices" ]

Comments

whatigotsofar said…
The moment each piece of writing begins to offer up redundant ideas, you've written too much. Everything before that is either not enough or just right.
unMuse said…
this is only slightly on topic, but I'm an rss reader of your blog. Because of that, while I understand your color choices, pink on a white background is impossible to read, phone or not. (and on my phone where I have to highlight the text to read it, it's frustrating.)

About your writing style I have nothing to contribute. I read what I enjoy. Sometimes I skim. Sometimes, not being as connected emotionally as you are to the subject makes it hard to relate, but I've never been bored.
Bef said…
I personally enjoy your writing style...and I'm not just saying that cause I want to jump your bones either lol

But seriously...I do...it has a rhythm to it...wonder if that's because you are a musician as well.

but in today's rushed world...I can see where some folks might find you a bit wordy...

I know when I do attempt to write...as I go through whatever process I have...I will read what I've written thus far outloud...that helps me "pace" my writing...and if I come across something where I'm not sure what I'm trying to say...then I know that needs to be cut down cause the thought is lost in translation if that makes sense...

I don't know...

I like how you write but if your goal is to have more people read it then you might want to find a way to shorten your ideas...if that makes sense
JerseySjov said…
since my own blog is nowhere near as interesting as yours i have to spend an awful lot of time slashing and burning before i post if i want to get any feedback, whereas you can get away with more words because you tell a different kind of story.

when i get going on a diary story about myself i want to get every little detail in there so that people who read can really get in my shoes, which usually leads me down a path of info overload, but when i had to write papers for school i would only be able to get the bare minimum out- i've been known to write 3.5 pages for a 5-7pg assignment because i just have nothing left to say.
Monster said…
You're verbose, that's for sure. Are you too verbose to read? Not even close. I think it's part of the style and charm of your voice, and I'd much rather you err on the side of giving us more to read.

I already follow your twitter feed, I don't need another abbreviated Hex. :)
polkatronixx said…
I think you manage to pretty much get it done in the right amount of words. That's not to say that everything's perfect all the time (I'd assume we could all use an editor now and again), but you usually work up to a point and make it. And you don't tend to overdo it or let the piece run on after you've made your point. Plus, you have your own style, your own way of pacing your writing which makes it engaging and easy to digest. Very conversational, so it's not a chore to read.

I found out you had a blog and decided to check it out, with no intention of really "following" it. That was at least 5 years ago (I think). I'm still here, and I check up everyday to see if you've posted anything new. So either you're doing something right, or I'm really easy to please.
Satorical said…
I'm thinking back to the piece you did on Aldo Nova. It was informative, funny, thoughtful, and incorporated video, song references, tangents, etc. I loved it, but someone I showed it to on my phone asked almost immediately "How long is this thing?"

The amount of editing you do and tone of your writing depends on the audience. McSweeney's isn't going to dumb down its jokes, for instance. I've mentioned this to you before, but I think the best way to grow your online audience would be to focus: sports, music, Hot Sheet or whatever, pick one.

But even if you keep the sandbox aspect of it, you can't expect to mail out unedited versions of your blog entries and expect them to be right for every publication. Much like a tailored resume, it's best to target your writing with a specific reader in mind, if you want to be published. If you want to do your own thing and demand the audience keep up with you, put that sort of energy into a short story collection, novel, or screenplay--or your blog.

I've mentioned this to you before as well, but it bears repeating: you must learn the difference between plural and possessive, its and it's, and the like. There are grammar freaks who will roundfile you if they see even one such mistake. It's the way of things.

Hope this helps. You know my intent is good, not destructive.
Werdna said…
I'm for long. I read on the computer, not on a phone though. On a phone anything longer than a paragraph is too long.
Van said…
I wouldn't fret. Your pieces are better written and edited that a lot of published articles I've read lately. Continue to ruthlessly edit, purge, and develop. Gaining readers and interest isn't about having tight, short, edited content on the modern information-saturated web. Nor is it about having the best content anymore. It's all about communicating and being well connected in your niche.

But enough crap from me. Copyblogger.com says it better: http://bit.ly/VrvNa
Anitra said…
When I read what you've written I can hear your voice saying the words.

Anyone who hasn't the patience to read every word doesn't know what they're missing :)
Hex said…
WIGSF -- Great point.

UnMuse -- I hadn't considered RSS feeds and formatting, I'll have to look into that. Thanks for the heads up.

Bef -- That's the same advice (reading it out loud) I used to give my students when they'd have trouble writing essays. It's such a simple things, but it's weird how many writers you can tell don't bother to do it.

Jersey -- If your blog wasn't interesting and didn't have anything to say, I wouldn't be reading it. Different styles are the spice of life. I just have been noticing lately that I have had to cut all sorts of stuff out lately for publication purposes, and it has me a little concerned.

Monster -- Thanks, buddy. That means a lot.

Polkatron -- It means the world that you enjoy it and have stuck it out for so long. Thanks, buddy!

Satorical -- One of the things that has gotten me thinking about this are the handful of rejection emails I've gotten from McSweeney's (and that wasn't for full blog posts, just snippets of them).

ps -- I'll try to keep a better eye out for my grammar pitfalls. It's funny to me that I still screw those up occasionally.

Werdna -- I think that's part of it. I write and read blogs on a computer myself. I like the widescreen better. But it's hard to not notice the tide shifting towards smaller devices, you know?

Van -- Thanks so much for those points. I think that's why I seek outside discussion on topics like this, because sometimes it's easy to get a skewed impression when you're only looking at the picture with one set of eyes.

Anitra -- That conversational tone is what I'm shooting for, because as cliche as it sounds -- it's me on the page. Thanks for the kind words!
FubsyNumbles said…
Lurker to your site, but a regular reader, nonetheless.

Personally, I like words. I like wordiness. Sometimes even for it's own sake, just for the joy of words.

So I would find it hard to be down on someone who seems to enjoy the language too. Especially seeing as redundancy is not something I seem to spot here. There are times where I don't connect so much with the subject matter, but that ain't necessarily down to the writer's style, nor the reader's patience; simply preferences.

I still read a newspaper every week-day, and one that still has space for proper journalism. I still read it from cover to cover, making sure I miss nothing that might be of interest. So I'm the last person to criticise somebody for rolling up their trouser legs (yup, I said trouser) and wading into the waters of language....
objectsubject said…
You know I've been reading this blog for like, 12 years, so what I'm about to say spans a lot of time and reading.

For me, it isn't that you're verbose or that the pieces you write are too long, it's that you meander.

There are times when I'm reading something and I find myself wondering, "Where is this going? And when it gets there, is it going to have *anything* to do with all of these things I'm reading now?"

You have a style that includes throwing out a lot of ideas which are loosely connected to each other by a thread of narrative or feeling, but which sometimes don't add momentum to the piece as a whole.

The set-up sometimes requires so much attention, that by the punch, I feel like I've forgotten how I got there.

But you know me, I'm a straight through kinda chick. Slow or fast, panoramic view, widescreen or cell phone...I wanna get there with few to no detours.

Our writing styles definitely reflect our personalities that way, the way you like to take back roads along a senic route which may or may not be heading the direction you ultimately want to end up going, while I plot points in a straight line and then freeze frame moments in time, but without deviating from the forward motion.

So really, everything I've said is not so much a criticism as it is a reflection of my personality. lol

Also, that damn capcha has cock blocked me like 3 times today.