What not to write

Toward the end of “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden goes to spend the night with a former teacher of his (Mr. Antolini), and they talk about Holden’s troubles at Pencey – the school from which he was just expelled. Specifically, Holden cites a class he took in “Oral Expression” in which the students were instructed to give speeches and yell “Digression!” at the speaker when he veered off-topic, and Holden states that he actually preferred the speeches in which the speaker digressed.

“The Catcher in the Rye” sometimes seems like a succession of digressions, but J.D. Salinger knew where he was going with the storyline.  That’s not always the case with blogs.

When I read back on my archives (and I try to avoid it, because I often think, “Damn, that sucks,” and I’m tempted to hit the DELETE key), I’m most dismayed by those posts that seem to meander all around Robin’s Red Barn and never arrive at a conclusion.  Or arrive abruptly.  Or when I get to the end, I don’t even care about what I’ve read.  And if I, the author, don’t care about it, then how can I expect anyone else to care?

One of the many criticisms leveled at mommybloggers is that we publish minute-by-minute accounts of our days, laundry lists of domestic chores, and dozens of pictures of our kids.  Maybe so, but who cares?  If you don’t enjoy it, don’t read it.  Not everyone blogs for an audience.

Some bloggers – mommy and otherwise – can write about the minutiae and make it fascinating.  It’s a rare talent.  Minutiae is most interesting when it’s whittled down to the salient points, and that’s not easy to do.  It requires self-editing with a level of discipline that most of us don’t regularly exercise.  Hey, I’m on a roll!  This is good stuff!  Why should I pare this down?  These are IMPORTANT details!

Of course I enjoy writing about what interests me, and in an effort to temper the narcissism that is blogging, I try to consider whether what interests me will interest others.  If I didn’t care about pleasing an audience, then I probably wouldn’t bother blogging in the first place.  And I’m not so arrogant as to assume that others would hang on every word – ANY WORD – I’d write.

But the digression – it plagues me.  As roundabout as I can be in print, I’m worse in person.  Sometimes I realize how ridiculous I sound, and I just shut up and start asking questions instead.  Get someone ELSE talking besides me.  At least in my posts I can think and write and read and revise before anyone “hears” me.

So I continue to edit myself.  Certainly not as ruthlessly as a real editor would, but with an eye to what I truly think would interest someone other than me.

And I continue to pursue brevity – knowing what I want to say and how best to say it.

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