Since I’ve been blogging, every now and then I’ve heard from readers complaining to me that—well, there’s just no good way to put this—my posts are much too long.
Recently I received an e-mail on the subject from reader David Foster, which was a model of succinctness:
Your blog is great, but I have only one objection…your posts are waaaay too long. Can’t you condense your thoughts a little?
Therein lies a tale. Allow me to explain. Got a moment? (Or an hour?)
It’s not as though I don’t understand exactly what all these readers are saying. In fact, I would dearly love to be able to condense my thoughts—not just a little, but a lot. It would be a great thing all around.
I’ve noticed that many of the popular bloggers write quick and punchy. They say something in quick little jabs, and then move on. I like to read them, too—easy on the eyes, easy on the time. I think it’s clear that more people are going to want to read something that doesn’t take so much effort to plow through, rather than something so long and—yes, some would even say, so boring.
I’ve tried to shorten my posts, believe me. And every now and then I do write a short post.
But I have to admit that the majority of my posts range from somewhat long to superlong. They take work, and often a lot of that work is research.
So, why do I do it that way? I’ve asked myself that question many times. Am I a glutton for punishment–for both dishing it out, and for taking it?
The answer is as that I just can’t write short and punchy, even if I set out to do so—at least, not very often. I think the reason is that the topics and the questions that most interest me seem complex; and the answers, likewise, complex. I want to explain, I want to explore many sides of a question, and in the process I want to make myself as clear as possible. I want to present the details that so fascinate me and give color and richness. I want to build a case.
Sometimes the details are the very things that drove me to do the research in the first place, and I want to flesh them out. Sometimes it’s the most complete possible understanding I’m striving for (such as with my “change” series). Sometimes it’s the story of an entire life—such as Paul Robeson. How can such a thing be told quickly? The evidence has to be amassed, just as the life has to be lived—slowly.
I think each blogger, each writer, has a niche and a specialty. Sometimes we don’t choose them, exactly; they seem to choose us. And I seem to have chosen this one, or vice versa.
I hope that those of you who stick with me enjoy the journey, and I thank you for your patience and for your fascinating (and sometimes quite thorough!) comments.
There, now–that didn’t take too long, did it?
[ADDENDUM: After reading many of the comments, I want to add two things. The first is that the original message from Mr. Foster seemed to me to be a basically friendly one (and one I even share, in a way). I never thought he was suggesting I turn the blog into a series of pithy sound bites, just some judicious condensation.
The second is to offer a hearty thanks to everyone who expressed appreciation for my posts---whether they read them all or not. If I do meander, I always try to do so with a purpose.]