Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting to the Point...or Not

Not much of a tree anymore perhaps, but still better than paper.

I am temperamentally disinclined to talk, so I don't do it much. One reason is that I seem to somehow invite interruption, and I really hate being interrupted. I was even interrupted during my last conversation with my mother, as she lay in Hospice quite literally taking her last breath. I don't know why this should be so. I don't interrupt others. I wait patiently until they have made their point. Then I pause to reflect on what they have said and formulate a considered response.
This is, I believe, proper and polite behavior. This is an efficient social mechanism for building mutual trust and appreciation. This is the best way to get to know people. Unfortunately, if you try to put this into practice, you will often find that the conversation you thought you were in has progressed several notions past the place you thought you were. If you say anything at this point, you will seem to others to be having trouble keeping up. This doesn't do any more to advance society than the rudeness of interrupting. Not wishing to do either—to be rude or to be thought stupid—my usual course is reticence.
This verbal reticence and its chief cause—loathing interruption—also explains why I like to write. Writing does not invite interruption. Writing does not require you to find a vacant space in a lively conversation where you can insinuate your thoughts on the matter being discussed. When you write, everything belongs to you, everything said and even the vacant spaces. Readers may offer up editorial comments as they read. They may take exception to what you have written. They may even vocalize their agreement. But they cannot interrupt because you, as writer, are finished saying your piece before they begin to read it. Writing is a beautiful thing.
I would like to think then that I can be forgiven if my writing is sometimes over-long, if I say too much, or run on breathlessly as if I am making up for all the time I could have spent making a point except for the interruptions. I would like to think that, but apparently I cannot.
Going on too long is an unpardonable sin in this age of the 140 character opus. Who is going to read twelve pages in an era where you can pyramid a series of tweets into a book deal and a sitcom? If you write past the point where someone would interrupt you if you were talking, they just stop reading. A lot of my posts run between 2 and 3 thousand words. No one has time for this kind of verbosity. Not that they have anything really more pressing to do, but it's the Internet for crying out loud. True enlightenment might be just a keystroke away. You'll never get there if you stop to smell the writer.
So I'm still not making my point. Well, I am, but by the time I make it no one is listening. It's all just digital flotsam in the ether, searchable but ineffectual. Thankfully it doesn't take up much space or require felling any trees.

5 comments:

  1. In the course of proofing this post I went to Grammar Girl's excellent site (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/lay-versus-lie.aspx) to vet my understanding of the difference between 'lay' and 'lie.' While there I noticed that she has 248 comments on the particular post I was referencing. 248 comments on a post about grammar! Could I get more comments (and readers) if I posted articles on something more useful than my half-baked take on modern life and long-term unemployment - say a discussion of in-substance defeasance of advance refunding bond issues?

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  2. I hate being interrupted also. So rude, right?

    I read once that people who interrupt others do so because they don't consider the person they're interrupting important!

    That spoke volumes to me about the people I was still friends with.

    Thanks for listing me on your sidebar, I'll do the same for you.

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  3. You're right, Suzy, but it's not so much that they think you're not important...just less important than the interrupter. BTW, my wife pointed out, after she read this, that I interrupt her all the time. She's right of course, but, rather than admitting that, I seized the opportunity to tell her that was the only way I could get a word in edgewise. Now she is not speaking to me. Seems like this would be an excellent time for us to have a conversation. I could contribute.

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  4. I was just thinking the other day about how important listening is. I think I'm pretty good, but always could be better. Next conversation I'm in, I'll be thinking of your post.

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  5. I'm new to your blog and find it significant to read this post. I definitely need to be a better listener. Your post was beautifully written and had a stately pace to it -- so thank you for that! I look forward to digging around here, although adding another blog to my reading list is insane. I admit to being intrigued by the music favorites which I would claim -- all except the Pink Floyd, perhaps. And, ironically, I've never seen Time Bandits but it came in the mail today on Netflix -- I'm now looking forward to watching it with my sons!

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Comments are always welcome. Tell me what you like and what you don't. Information, encouragement, criticism--I don't care. A day where I don't learn something new is a day lost to me.