Let me have just a few words with you...
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.]