Pat, I’d like to buy another paragraph

By Mir
October 1, 2005
Category Job? Huh?

Today I foisted two sleep-deprived children upon their father so that I could spend some quality time freaking right the hell out about how much time I spent coughing and sleeping and generally NOT WORKING last week.

The girlchild was literally curled up in the corner when I arrived to fetch her at 9:00 this morning. Did you have a good time? Yes. Are you okay? Yes. Are you SURE? I… I… I’M TIIIIIIIIRED! It seems that the party was a smashing success, well through to 11:00 last night, but Chickadee was, shall we say, less than amused when the birthday girl chose to wake her up via tickling at 5:00 this morning.

My daughter is many wonderful things, but a morning person is not one of them. Neither is she someone who will function well on half her regular amount of sleep. Given the way she’s snarled at me some mornings, I was just pleased to hear that she hadn’t attacked the foolish girl who woke her up.

Monkey wasn’t quite so sleepy, but he did start jumping on my bed quite early this morning. Both kids were happy to spend the day lounging at Daddy’s. I returned home after dropping them off, expecting to work some and then take a nap. Haha!

I had just finished working when they came home after dinner. Wanna know why? Sure you do!

I have no idea how to be succinct. There, I said it. Are you happy now??

There is succinct, and then in the dictionary where they list the antonyms for succinct, there is a picture of me. Probably my mouth is open, what with the constant talky-talky and the words and everything.

So, I got these assignments. You know, to write stuff. No problem! Good times! I did my preparation, I conducted my interviews, I transcribed my tapes. Then I sat down to do my writing. As usual, I wrote with a fair amount of speed, because the next word on my personal list of adjectives after “verbose” is probably “hyper.” I was feeling very pleased with myself and very much looking forward to my nap.

The thing about my blog is that I can write whatever I want, as much as I want, and it’s all good. The thing about actual paying journalism is that there is a word limit. Can you believe that? I mean, really now. A word LIMIT? Who would want to LIMIT WORDS?? Oh, yeah yeah yeah, blah blah blah paper and ink and blah blah WHATEVER. A word limit is just… well… it’s not my STYLE.

As a result, I can write an article in about… half an hour. It will only take me three additional hours to whittle it down to the allowed size. Fortunately, I can then stab myself repeatedly at my leisure.

I’m not complaining. I’m just a little bit frustrated with my inability to get to the point, already. The problem is, it ALL seems like the point, to me. I apparently lack some sort of information filter which other people seem to naturally possess. Me, I interview someone for forty minutes, and I think just about everything they say is really interesting. It’s all part of a story that must be told! All of it!

But then… you know. The word count thing. I’ve got to edit. Edit out all of the content, that is.

So, let’s say I’m doing a story about a specialty candy shop. The owner is delightful and extremely forthcoming about all aspects of the business. So a section of my article, on first pass, might read something like:

Hassenfeffer boasts over three hundred varieties of confections in this recently overhauled submarine-turned-candyland. “It seems counter-intuitive, turning a beached submarine into a candy shop, I know,” he admits. “But it was here, you know? And I could just picture it… really, from the very first time I saw it. It spoke to me. I just saw… you know… all those little shelves and compartments and such, and I knew I could turn it into the best candy store ever. I mean, I didn’t even have to install any bins! There was very little retrofitting required.”

The custom paint job on the exterior is just one facet of the cheerful invitation to young and old alike to stop in for more than just a piece of candy. It’s an adventure, chock full of intrigue and unlikely creations. “It’s funny,” he notes, “but the chocolate covered worm lollipops really started as a joke. Then they just became wildly popular.” Don’t believe it? It’s true, and the fish-scale gobstoppers come in at a close second. It turns out that there was an entire market waiting to be tapped in pond-inspired sweets.

Hassenfeffer and his twelve daughters catch or gather all the necessary “secret” ingredients along the very shore where their submarine-store sits peacefully overlooking the water. “Dorcas, my littlest one? She eats more of the clam taffy than she wraps. Kids!”

Fine, right? Except that once I’m done prostrating myself before the word count deities, all I have left is:

Hassenfeffer makes weird candy in a submarine.

It’s just not the SAME.

The public has a RIGHT TO KNOW, people. They’re regularly being deprived of important information, all because of this archaic convention of imposing a word limit. I mean, hell, it’s not like without a rule I’ll just keep going and going and… what? Just because I… I mean, it’s not like… and that was just an EXAMPLE you know… but the point is that… oh, nevermind.


  1. Elena

    Reminds me of seventh grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Maddox, thought I was advanced enough to do Wuthering Heights for my oral book report. I had only a faint glimmering of comprehension of the book (archaic language, anyone?), much preferring the easily accessible Sweet Valley High series or the rich prose of James Herriot’s vet books, and NO idea how to summarize it for the class. I ended up blathering on for untold minutes, including such informative gems as the name of the dog in the book, until the trapdoor at my feet opened and I fell down this long, dark tunnel…I mean, the teacher let me sit down.

  2. Angel

    Just a thought, any possibility your employer would allow you to post your longer piece on a corporate blog? They get their word-count in print, you get to use all those delicious words in cyberspace, and they get more hits on their website. ;)

  3. Amy-GO

    I like verbose! Don’t go changin’.

  4. Cyndi

    Oh, no…I hate when that happens. I wrote a couple of short stories for contests…which were much better before I had to bend over and be molested by the evil word counters.

    I am the same with story-telling, because, geez, it isn’t as interesting if you don’t know the name of the dog…and it isn’t as funny if you didn’t know the previous history between Aunt Minnie and the man at the butcher shop…

    *sigh* No one gets it but us…

  5. bob

    and this comes as a surprise to whom?????

    ever count how many of your blog entries have the “read more”/”I’m done now” links vs. not?

    Not that I’m criticizing. I have loads of time to read the novellas that are your daily entries.

    Just Kidding!!!! I’m your biggest fan. Honest.

  6. Mike

    To quote Amadeus, “Too many notes!”

    I’ll keep this short. Heehee….

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