I want simple, but don’t create simple

I consume a lot of media, like all of us. News, blogs, articles, TV shows, movies, mini-series, books, excel documents, e-mails and a whole lot of other information. The one common theme across everything that we consume, be it for business or pleasure is we want it to be simple. We appreciate ideas that convey their point clearly, simply and precisely. This is not true of just business communication, but also of the pleasure consumption we do. I read a lot of books. The most cherished ones in my memory are not those with the most complex storytelling, or mixed metaphors, or literary writing. The best ones I like were the ones who told me what they had to say in the simplest possible manner. The catch to this is — the message has to be original in some way. Either a novel idea, or a repackaging of an old one, or something just so raw that even though you thought you knew it on the surface, you didn’t know it at all.

But when it comes to creating something, I want complexity. I want layers, I want metaphors, I want deeper meanings than you would get in a single exposure to my creation. My writing is, of course, woefully inadequate in meeting this mark. Its rather see-through. That is because I write a blog as more of a diary or conversation with myself than as a conscious written element of a story or a point of view. Its like the monologue you’re having inside your head, yes its confusing, but written down, it gives purpose and clarity of thought. But its quite simple and easy to understand content at the end of the day. My speeches though, are nothing like that. I endeavour to add layers and depth to the topic, to elevate the conversation in some way, to add something deep and meaningful to the audience. Have I ever succeeded? Most likely not.

I wrote about my speech Rage Against the Dying of the Light! before. How it evolved, how it came to be what it is today, where it got me in the International Speech Contest of Toastmasters’ District 98. The one thing a lot of the audience told me about the speech was — we didn’t get it. A number of senior toastmasters came up to me and told me it was brilliant. Now one can take this as a compliment and get on a high horse. My content is perhaps too mature and wise for the chaff to get. But that’s just blowing your own trumpet. As a speaker, one has a responsibility — know the level of your audience and craft a message to appeal to them. The greatest speeches in history have not been complex fundamentally as speeches. Their weight came mostly from the historical and political contexts in which they were given. But their immense popularity came from the way a simple, powerful message struck a chord with hundreds, thousands, even millions.

I crave this complexity of thought in many things. I am putting off writing a fiction story, mostly because I would be no good at it. But also because the elements I want in it are just too much to ask of a first time writer of fiction — circular time, supernatural elements blended with the real, timeless age and location settings. These are not only very complex things, they are also rather much. I’ve read a lot of novels and prize winning literature works of this sort. None have made too deep an impression on me. They seem overly pompous and needlessly complex. They remind me of a play I attended some time back. It was a humorous retelling of Macbeth in theatre. It had too many layers. Political satire, social commentary, and comedy of life on top of the traditional elements of trust, betrayal and paranoia depicted in the original. The play was superbly written and expertly performed by some of the biggest names in Bollywood and Indian theatre. Some of the scenes were executed to perfection. But on the whole, you left confused and a little disappointed with what might have been if the whole thing had been just a little bit simpler.

Simplicity perhaps is underrated, even with my own endeavours. Like that word, endeavours. I could have said something like, even with what I do. But no, it had to be endeavours.

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