At times, what we write ends up being longer than we thought, and we’re naturally uneasy that the length of it will dissuade our fellow readers from proceeding. In my previous entries is one sentence that I had started in order to justify the length of that article: that while considering the reader’s time and attention, it was in proportion to the subject-matter. But, in hastening to describe the event to you, I left the thought there incomplete. Now, adding a little to that thought here, is what this entry is about.
When we come across long articles, one of our initial reactions is reaching for that common, though inaccurate, saying, that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” placing it next to the article, and wondering whether it imperceptibly escaped the writer, while we ourselves are subjected to thousands of words when (or so we think), for the same purpose, a couple of pictures would have been just as adequate.
All of which could be true; yet, keeping articles short is often not possible, at least of those that I’ve tried to write. These have been on events whose content I thought worthwhile to transcribe. I am fully conscious of how we all are pressed for time, and how difficult it is to retain anyone’s attention for a long time; and how, even in those moments of relaxation or idleness, we prefer almost any thing that doesn’t tax our attention for long. But we do make time, and compel our attention, for those things we consider worthwhile.
It’s out of this concern, at least in part, that for those blog entries describing the events, I determined to make one or two statements to explain why the length is in proportion to the content. I may be going to more events, which means that, for subsequent blog entries, I’ll probably be repeating those statements. So, applying the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle, I thought it convenient to have such an explanation in one place which I can refer to.
As for that common saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” wherever it’s appropriately applied, I would add “that describe it.” Consider this: here is a picture; is it worth any thousand words? Would it be worth the first thousand words in a dictionary? What about the last thousand words? I’m accounting for only the number of words, not the “picture,” or the “words” used, or the standard of “worthiness” appealed to.
Now, at these events, there are more things to describe than I have the inclination, and the ability to do so strikingly: there are those one-on-one conversations you have with others who are attending, either during the breaks or over drinks; there are those numerous hints from the expressions of people’s faces, their varying modulation of voice, and their actions which gradually rise from expressing nervousness to confidence; all of which would occupy a curious observer because of the probable lessons they contain.
Furthermore, on stage, all these are somewhat magnified. There, we see the earnestness of the speakers, which diverts us from the familiarity of the day’s routine; and which fixes our attention, at least for a while, on our temporary instructors and on their subject-matter. Stranger still, even those plain announcements take a transient hold on us.
To describe all these would take much more than a thousand words. So far, I, like some others, have limited these summaries to those talks that we’ve been to, and take it for granted that the contents of those talks are able, by themselves, to sustain your interest while reading about them in more than a thousand words.
As always, I’m happy to be corrected.
For others going to events, and writing summaries, I can’t wait to read them, however long they turn out to be.