Friday, February 5, 2021

An Infinity of Pages

 You have spent much of your life as an intern, student, or apprentice to the condition of writer, content with the simple truth of the maxim wherein brevity is the soul of wit. At your present age, you have even less reason to doubt the truth of that equation, although you do recall times in your apprenticeship where your goal was length, a condition that has more to do with humor than wit.

During those tumultuous years, length signified seriousness of intent. The longer the work, the more serious it would become, thanks to your belief that length meant more themes. What great mischief lay behind the logic of that assumption.  

Much of your apprenticeship had to do with removing length. Those extra clauses and phrases disguised the thematic material you'd hoped to introduce but, found lacking, substituted the occasional adjective, adverb, or even more tortuous diversion.

All about you, voices clamored for you to get serious. In desperation, you moved to length, vocabulary, and literary allusion, thus began your true apprenticeship. You needed to organize search-and-destroy missions to detect and deal with length, vocabulary, and literary allusion.

Old habits die hard. Length, vocabulary, and literary allusion have ways of convincing you they belong in your lines and paragraphs. Years spent editing the work of others taught you how devious a thing seriousness can become.

Yesterday, you used the Adobe Sign application to put your signature on an agreement form that bore the logo of Penguin/Random House. You might call this an accomplishment, You might even regard it as a result of the seriousness of your intent to advance in your lifelong apprenticeship. This would not have happened had you not, over the years since you began, produced an infinity of pages which you then probed for length, vocabulary, and literary allusion.

The takeaway truth for today: Better to sign such agreements for work you have already completed rather than those you have barely begun.

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