From the Braver Institute
I rarely get any email these days so I am always surprised to see the new email indicator when my inbox has something in it. Such was the case last week when I went through the usually pointless routine of checking my email. I was pleased to see that there was life out there in the world of my contact list, although I wasn’t exactly pleased by the content of this new communiqué. Here is what the email said:
Due to a recent change in our column width, we will no longer be able to run columns over 700 words. We have been trying to squeeze in columns over 700, and even over 1,000, words for some time, but it is just not leaving us with enough room to run all of the local content, in particular, photos.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and thank you for contributing to our paper!
At first I was taken a little aback by the news that I would have to be more mindful of the length of this column. I have been churning out seven-hundred to a thousand words on a weekly basis for the last five years. My initial kneejerk reaction was “How on Earth am I supposed to suddenly start writing less than seven hundred words? How will I ever be able to get my point across with such a limitation?”
I understand that the reader, especially a non-writing reader, looking at the world of a writer from the outside it might seem to be easier to write less instead of more but nothing could be further from the truth. Well, okay there are a lot of things that could be much further from the truth but I needed to add some false drama to all of this to make it seem like writing is harder than it really is.
When I was a kid in school I remember having to write essays with instructions from the teacher that these essays must be at least “X” amount of words. In those days two hundred words was an insurmountable quantity of verbiage. Teachers who gave such assignments were nothing more than word sadists who loved to inflict maximum pain on students in the form of writer’s cramp.
Now I that I have finally gotten pretty good at writing at length, I find myself in the predicament of having to write less, but sometimes there is a story in my head that can only be told without limits on word quantity. Cutting anything out might cause the whole works to stray so far from the original message that my next Pulitzer Prize winning column could end up barely making it to a condensed footnote on an unread page in Reader’s Digest.
Then again, maybe having a restriction on the number of words I can write will actually make my life easier. During those increasingly frequent weeks when I find myself with nothing to write about, it may be much less difficult to put down seven hundred words or less than it is to write seven hundred or more. Now that I think about it, I could write seven hundred words about paint drying or water boiling, and I could do it while I was sleeping.
Perhaps this new limitation is really the proverbial silver lining of a cloud.
This may open a whole world of topics that I had been reluctant to write about for fear of not being able to say enough. There are numerous minor events that happen every day in my life that until this point have never crossed my radar as column worthy. There are countless brief interactions with people or situations that I find myself in that would have been very difficult to stretch beyond seven-hundred words. Now all of these stories will see the light of day.
Of course the downside of only having seven hundred words to work with is that it is entirely possible that I might run out of words before the
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