The Modern-Day Writer’s Dilemma…
The trickiest part about being a writer is to convey your thoughts and experiences to the reader without diluting them… Essentially, doing full justice to them through the written word.
The second tricky part is to make those thoughts interesting, by stating enough, not too little so that it’s ambiguous, and not so much that the story gets boring.
Here’s where the ominous word limit or time limit comes into play…
Almost every blogging platform and independent blogger nowadays mentions the amount of time it will take to finish reading a post… almost like a lure to make the viewer read it.
We probably have no choice as writers… We are living in times where attention spans are shrinking. People will take a maximum of one or two minutes to read a blog, beyond which, they will move on…
And not always because their minds have been trained to, more so because online platforms are setting a time limit trend, which is subconsciously dictating their reading preferences…
A time limit may be a great tool, but in my view it’s being misused, and can sometimes be very limiting for creativity.
For a writer, it takes a minute just to set the background of a story…and another minute to expound on the main theme… Before you know it, you are way into your time limit, and you need to either edit brutally, or surrender to the fact that your readers will move to the next open tab on their browser.
I recently noticed how schools and colleges these days are also reducing their essay lengths, and expecting students to write complete experiences in 250 words.
This came to my attention when I was helping a cousin with her son’s university application essay… She asked me to go through it, and see how it could be improved upon.
Her son had written a heart-touching story of a classmate who had committed suicide, and how such an act had impacted him and his classmates, making them question the meaning of life.
Despite the word limit, the gravity of the situation was still felt in the young boy’s words… His storytelling did manage to provoke the reader’s curiosity. But the sad part was, the experience had to be wrapped up in 250 words!
It could have been more well-rounded — with a background, a gradual character development, and eventually the key learnings… Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.
In my school days, I remember we wrote a minimum of 800–1,000 words in an essay, which essentially translates into 4–5 minutes of reading material...too long for today’s generation.
But that allowed us the freedom to build our stories…to work on the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
We got time and space to develop our thoughts, to etch them out using the right words, to look up dictionaries, and include new vocabulary…to even add a takeaway— or moral, as we called it in those days.
While the internet has increased creativity to some extent — because of its quick access to the incredible talent online, and the opportunity to learn from those ideas — it has also shrunk the time and space needed to develop and hone talent…
From day one writers are expected to produce content that is clickable and get maximum shares, likes etc.
But writing — like any other form of art and expression — should afford you the luxury of both time and space. Time to develop what you have to say, and space to allow the receiver to create his own associations and learnings from the story.
When we create capsule-sized pieces of writing, we are essentially taking away the luxury we have as writers — to build stories, improvise with language, and create styles of our own.
What worries me is — Are we going to start reading only those blogs that are 250 words or that end in three minutes, and ignore the rest, even though they may be saying something novel and interesting?
There’s also a new trend of thought leaders who ignore the writing of blogs completely… They only write detailed status updates so that one needn’t click and move away from the page, and instantly hit like or share the post… Again an example of writing more for popular appeal than any lasting value.
This approach may work for anything that is temporary and topical, but if a good story has to be told, and a serious argument has to be expounded upon, one has to spend much more time writing and reading it.
Storytelling is about allowing people to dwell further into the intricacies and possibilities inherent in the story, and in language itself… The ability to ideate, imagine, and then make eloquent your thoughts with the resource of language that you have.
Moreover, good stories should encourage people to think more, read more and even write more themselves… For instance, how often have you clicked another link to understand the point a blogger was trying to make? Or, how often have you read a book that a blogger has recommended?
Language for communication and language for storytelling are very different, but the two are beginning to merge, and sometimes with its own uses… It is, in fact, encouraging many to express their ideas, and be more creative in their communications… But, it is also changing storytelling at a fast pace.
The dilemma is whether to stay with traditional forms of storytelling, and make them relevant in today’s 3-minute quick read formats, or break away from them totally, and evolve a new form of storytelling altogether?
For those who write and blog, how often have you kept time as a parameter in your writing? Has it restricted you, or set you free, giving you more structure in an unstructured space?
Pink Pinjra encourages you to share your struggles, views, and learnings as a writer on the internet…
We look forward to your contributions — Write a blog, poem, or anything you have hesitated to write before… Simply express yourself and set yourself free.
To know how to submit your blogs to Pink Pinjra, click here.