11/25/2013
Get to the point!

In the tradition of me being so behind the times I should never attempt to work in the media, I only just found out what the hell TL;DR means.

Well, it was two months ago, when I learned what it means from Anna. Well, sort of learned, because she only dropped the term in a conversation, and I searched for it on the Internet - as you do with most Internet-speak, or whatever they call it nowadays - and learned the meaning behind a term I don't see anybody use, at least in my case.

"Hindi na uso yung 'writing' part of blogging," she told me, as I bemused the idea of having an online group that is called - yes - "Bloggers Who Write". I mean, don't bloggers all have to write? Even photo bloggers have to write. A picture may say a thousand words, but it can be any thousand words, and every reader needs to be told where to go. Anyway, back to Anna. "Majority of 'famous' bloggers blog to get free stuff now, sadly."

I thought of my so-called career as a blogger. I've always blogged about my life, which is not promotable anyway (unless you're, I guess, Xiaxue - and I only found out about her when I met Rainy). But I do blog about other things too. My radio reviews on the retired Shale got me an invite to a radio station launch. And... that's it.

The idea of blogging as a marketing tool was new back then - either that, or I was very naïve - but I understood that, when you get something because you wrote about something, you have to write about that first something in return. So there I was, with Ella, thinking of why I almost got a margarita instead of red wine, watching bands, getting autographs, seeing radio executives we actually know by name, and at one point, even talking to them, just because we were excited. And then I blogged about it.

Well, yes, there's my music not-so-blog, and artists sending me links to their whole albums for review purposes. That counts as free stuff, right? Anyway, back to Anna, again.

"Kaya be proud na you're one of the few who actually blog with a purpose. Pati ako. Proud of my TL;DR posts."

Too long; didn't read.

Also, surely "getting free stuff" is a purpose, right?

Anyway. I am aware, yes, that I write very long blog entries. Well, by "very long" it apparently means "not very long", if you think of how magazines ask their best writers to devote 55,000 words to a story, a story that often involves months of research, hundreds of interviews, that sort of thing.

Lately I write an average of a thousand words (a picture!) per entry, but that mostly applies to my essays on politics, where to make sense, you have to do some reading and proper argument constructing. I'd be writing these things - for example, my latest political blog entry, on the Yolanda relief effort - and I'd try to account for every thought I had, every thing I've read, and how they all fit together in the end. The next thing I know, I've written two thousand words - that blog entry has over 2,300 - and I actually feel good about how I built the whole thing up. You know, cheap writer thrills.

Also, that feeling of amazement at yourself. 2,300 words! Back in high school, we'd be asked to write 500-word essays on, say, a particular aspect of the British monarchy, and you'd struggle with writing even a hundred of those words. I hate my history teacher! And you'd resort to thinking up of essay extenders, also known as bullshit, that's at least 400 words. And you succeed. And you feel like you're a brilliant, brilliant writer.

I was a high school student, too. I went through that phase. I'd come home with an essay assignment, I'd do some reading, I'd start writing, and then, for at least twenty times, I would click on the Tools menu, then click on Word Count. Damn it. 496 words! And now here I am, spending a good hour or two writing about love, either mine (which didn't exist then) or the president's, making things up on the fly, knowing very well that this is not bullshit I'm spouting... and then I'd check the word count and I'd realize I hit the thousand mark again.

Again, cheap writer thrills. You feel good about the thing you wrote. You probably think it's the best thing you've written ever. And you hope people will see it. And then your heart breaks when you see the word count, because it's hit the thousand mark. Nobody reads anything that's at least a thousand words long!

Maybe it's because I am a blogger. For some reason, writing very long essays are more acceptable in print. (Again, 55,000-word articles.) It's a bit of an old school thing, the idea of picking up some paper on a lazy Sunday, finding for a place to lounge, and immersing yourself in all the words. (The only exception would be when you're reading that thing while seated on the toilet.) The charm of reading a riveting story all by yourself.

You try to do that online, and you can expect two things. You can get hate, in the "Damn it, you're writing this again? I'm out!" vein. Or you can get apathy, which is, as everybody would tell you, worse.

I'm pretty certain I'm getting that second thing, judging from how rare I get comments on my blog. Sure, I may be a good writer, and not a few of you have told me that, but I am a long writer, and you just don't have the time to read my thoughts, all my thoughts, the angry political ones, the depressing romantic ones, the cynical everything-else ones. I mean, sure, I accept that I have few readers because I am not a happy blogger, and anybody who's not happy should be avoided like the plague, if we're to follow the unwritten laws of the Internet. But I don't accept that you won't read me - I know I sound like I have an inflated of self-worth, violation of the laws! - because I take a thousand words minimum to prove my point.

But then again, I'm the outlier here. I'm the guy who's writing long things in a place where pictures work best. And click-bait headlines. And listicles. Almost always involving escapist ideas like "offices in Mali that you'd want to work in" or "Josh Hutcherson's most adorable me-want-Katniss faces" or "fucking delicious ice cream flavors that cannot be mass produced because we tried and it's fucking hard".

So I'll violate that unwritten rule on not having an inflated self-worth, because screw it, I'm the one writing. Why can't I take my influences - all those non-fiction books, those episodes of This American Life, those essay compilations I struggle to find in bookstores - and pick the best of them, and apply them to my experience, and write something up, and publish the results on my blog? Is it because this thing isn't printed? Is it because this isn't on Thought Catalog?

Yeah, like the "well, submit your essays to a newspaper!" suggestion can be done easily.

I've one caveat, though. Not everybody who writes long writes well. Hell, I'm pretty sure this blog entry is more of a meandering mess of a rant than a well constructed argument or a rivetingly composed story. (Not that I want this to be an argument. This really is a rant.) But often than not - and I am speaking from experience - if you're given the space to write all the words you want, then you're likely trusted to make sense. So when I read this article on the Entertainment Weekly website, split in two pages, about the successes and failure of The Mentalist's just-wrapped-up Red John mythology, and I saw someone essentially make a TL;DR rant, I just boiled inside.

"This article jumped the shark after the first paragraph," the dude wrote. "I can't believe you have a job, Jensen. I seriously can't believe a fanboy tool like you is being allowed to help write a movie. You are the worst and a better writer could make the same point in two paragraphs."

And I thought he built up his points, and argued his points, very well. And I thought, can't we build up our points because you can't be arsed to read them, because this is the Internet and this is about being quick and to the point and, fuck it, just get to the point! Oh, why don't novelists have this problem? Why does it have to be people like me? Why can't I write... ehrm... select all, copy, paste into Word, Review tab, Word Count... 1,496 words in one entry on the Internet?

And your responses...

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