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28 November 2006

Mastering the short form

One of the great bits of wisdom passed down to us in our earliest good writing classes (as opposed to those other early classes taught by frauds and false prophets who had somehow emerged during the winnowing chaos of the close of the Cold War) was the line: “We write long because it’s easier than writing tightly.”

The short form is a unique art. We have spent much time on it, stripping the redundant and the superfluous. We find often however that our audiences, unused to the essence of the thing, find themselves grasping in the blank spaces rather than seeing the figure against the ground.

But in this age of ever shortening attention spans, and ever more numerous competing voices, the short form has never been more important. We have found that among the community’s best masters of the form are the cable writers in operational realms, as opposed to the academic traditions dominating the analytical side with lengthy and unread tomes. Something about immediacy, and purpose, which so focuses the mind.

Thus, when we are struggling to coalesce the clouds of thought which accrete around the stranger attractors which have captured our interest, we often find that we have in hand the short form but fight for the length and weight that lends a patina of perceived legitimacy. It is interesting to observe other professions, wherein credibility in the short form is rapidly becoming the only currency which matters in the new environment.

One of the benefits of the short form is the preservation of the driving passions, and the original voice ripped straight from the fire in the belly of the author. The term once used to describe the visceral experience of the reader’s connection with that original intent was “eyeball kick”.

What drives us here can only be a passion – or perhaps a madness of the most classically eccentric sort. We are not lent to manifestos – but we are driven to help build the next generation, and through our service and our example perhaps to provide the foundation upon which their successes will be built.