Write Short! Or the Problem of Not Being Dostoevsky

Two years ago. I am in 12th grade and I have a journalism exam. Nervous sleepy people around. They talk about their strategies. Shut up, people! You’re annoying… Who cares about your strategies at 8 a.m.?! I don’t have a strategy. But even if I had… Well, again – no one cares! So, we enter the auditory. They give us the topic. Just letting my mind flow…

I finish the exam more than an hour earlier. Eight pages and endless sentences. Almost no full stops. Just thoughts, emotions, commas. Immediately calling my aunt who is a journalist. She is so excited about the idea of me succeeding her profession. Sharing with her about my long-sentenced essay. She thinks it’s a madness. Her reaction: “Long sentences… Who do you think you are? Dostoevsky!?” With an arrogance characteristic to this age I answer almost immediately and with no thinking: “How do you know that I’m not Dostoevsky?! And, besides, I just like writing long sentences…” Silence on the other side of the phone. Then my aunt starts laughing at my childish arrogance and adds: “Ok, we will see…”

(Let me just add, in order to avoid all the possible hate that I’m not trying to compare myself to Dostoevsky. But why breaking the rules should be a privilege only of the great minds? Probably you would answer that they simply know how to break the rules in the right way. But I suppose that even in the not so skillful breaking the rules one could find a bigger charm than in the most pedantic “following every rule” article…)

A few weeks later we see the result. Listening to my intuition and breaking all the existing journalistic rules actually works for me.

And then… the university, the practices… And everywhere they say: Write short! Cutting the words, the thoughts, the adverbials, sometimes even the breath of the texts. First-person narrative doesn’t sound professionally! Beautiful, but too poetic. Stop with all these commas – use full stops! Short sentences! As they try to turn me into a comma hater. Or into a full stop lover. As you prefer…

Ok, you have to be as fast and as correct as possible. You have a limited space, but… in the traditional media. What about the online media? You have as much space as you want. You can stretch your thoughts, turn them upside down, you can mix arts, mix words, photos, sounds, videos… You can be a writer and a director at the same time. You can talk directly to the people by recording your voice. Everything you want. Why do we need the same rules here, especially when we have genres as the reportage etc., when you have to “draw” the event with words? When you have to make the people feel as they have also been at this place together with you. Do we need a journalist with opinion, or just a typist for the news? Because, if you follow all the rules, the difference sometimes is way too slight…

Yes, we live fast. Yes, we don’t have the time, the nerves and the habit to sit and read something long every day. Probably in big part of the time we all look for the highlights in the texts, and then “Aha, ok, I got it”, and then starting with our tasks. If I see something intriguing, even if it’s too long, even if the style seems not exactly from this epoch of rush… I’d drink my coffee in front of the computer for 5 minutes more and give a shot to the piece.

Won’t the people who read your text feel when you try to stuff your words into a certain frame, not because you want to do it, but because it should be like this according to the rules? Don’t you feel like you rape your thoughts and sentences? So why should it be better to follow the rules, when you can’t say the things in the way in which you think and feel them? Changing even one word, changing even only one coma or full stop could destroy the whole atmosphere. And it’s not putting yourself into words anymore. It’s deleting yourself from the text.

You have the right to be in your own text in the way you want to be. Even if you have the problem of not being Dostoevsky.



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