An Introduction and a Plea…
OK — I’m admitting it. I need help, and this seems as good a space as any. I’ve been reading many of you for a long time, and respect what I’ve seen, so — I’m asking for help.
For a long time I’ve been wanting to start a blog — two actually, but that’s beside the point. Just for back story, a few years ago I suffered a horrible neck injury playing hockey. Recovery hasn’t been what I would prefer, so I spend more time in my head than doing things that I used to do. As an IT worker for longer than I wish to admit, I can still do some things, but even those are limited by my ability to sit or stand for any extended period of time. Thus, I’ve wanted to write. Especially since the two subjects I wish to focus on are so important to me.
There’s a problem, however. I’ve been asked to not do it. My best friend, a man I’ve known since 3rd grade is a journalism professor, and while he tries to be kind, his editorial is always the same — ”For God’s sake! Tolstoy would have trouble getting through your writing in a lifetime!”. He’s been editing my writing since middle school when I wrote for the newspaper he was the editor for. It had gotten so that I hate the color red. I won’t wear it, I won’t root for teams wearing it and I have been known to damn near run screaming from the most beautiful redheads I’ve met.
Last week, within a period of three days, two individuals (although married), independently told me the same thing — just in different ways. Robert (not his real name), made the comment that of all the texts he receives, mine are by far the longest. A few days later, Alexandra (also not her real name), with whom I am also going into business with, tentatively mentioned at the end of a long conversation that my emails to her really needed to be able to download within 30–45 seconds (and she has a 75mb pipe!).
If you haven’t figured out by now, and seriously — if you haven’t you might not be able to help me; is that I’m too wordy. I write like I speak (and God knows I love the sound. of my own voice :)) and I hate to leave things to misinterpretation.
I’ve always preferred speaking to people. I hate social media, sms and even email. I’d prefer a phone call any day of the week. When I’m speaking to someone, they can tell what I mean by my tone or expression (if face to face). My wit is so dry and sarcastic that I’ve had people misinterpret emails, but it goes back father than that.
When I was in middle school and high school, we didn’t have email or sms or any of these other anonymous services, so it isn’t just the fact that there’s the chance to misinterpret me that’s causing my lack of brevity. And, man, do I lack brevity.
I’ve been hearing these comments for years, but because I was so successful at work and socially, I was able to ignore it. Now, with my injury forcing me to be more isolated and live more in my head, I’m having to deal with this and so here we are.
I took my friends advice/criticism to heart and searched online, and in the app store, for tools to help improve my writing. This led to a number of tools, but the most prominent one was www.hemingwayapp.com. Holy crap, that was an eye opener! I took an email reply to my new business partner (my friend’s wife who made the comment) and plugged it in expecting a general result.
For those who haven’t used the app, when you put your text in, it color codes it (which isn’t readily apparent as to the meaning). But then on the right side of the page appears a panel with information that is supposed to be helpful. Shocking, was more the feeling I’d describe — at least for me.
The first metric you’re presented with is readability based on a score related to grade level. Well, hell, I scored a grade 15! A junior in college! I can’t be doing too bad.
Below that is allowing of the number of words with an arrow menu button. What the heck, I was feeling pretty good so I clicked it. Now, please realize that this reply was long, but I was attempting to explain more technical concepts to a non-technical person. Yet, even with that, what appeared when I clicked the menu button shook me to my core. My reply was 1180 words, 43 sentences, 6,617 characters, 5,230 letters and took an average of 4 minutes and 43 seconds to read.
Being told you write too much or too long is one thing, having it presented to you by a program is quite another. It gets worse…
Below that, the color codes are explained. Pink highlights in your text represent sentences that are very hard to read. Yellow represents hard to read sentences, while purple represents phrases that have simpler alternatives. Finally, blue represents the number of adverbs you used (the advice says to use 3 or less), and green represents usage of passive voice (suggested to use 9 or less).
My scores, and I can’t believe I’m putting this in public, were:
- 17 of 43 sentences were very hard to read
- 9 of 43 sentences were hard to read
- 10 phrases had simpler alternatives
- 7 adverbs were used (4 above the suggested)
- And 9 passive tense usages were present (right at the max)
Now, remember, this was an email reply, not an essay.
They say that the first step is admitting you have a problem. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a problem, and while this is most likely not the most appropriate page for this, I’m asking for your help.
I have a lot to say (obviously). My dealings with the medical community in the last few years have taught me so much and made me realize that most patients have no idea how to work with their physicians or the system. I have stories and lessons I want to spread about how to handle pain and the medical community that doesn’t do a good job of dealing with it. I have those and more I wish to give back to the communities (online) that have given me so much and kept me going at the absolute worst of times. To do that, however, I need some advice, some tutorship and some guidance. And perhaps this is absolutely the wrong place, but Medium’s own page states:
Your ideas matter
Medium is a free and open platform where anyone can express themselves.
So, here I am. I’ll be posting more about the topics I mentioned and others, ready to expose myself and my experiences, and perhaps improve my writing skills along the way — hopefully with your help…