Don’t Lose the Long Form!

June 8th, 2010   •   2 comments   

The greatest literary works Like “War and Peace” are not puny (source)

As more and more people consume information in byte-sized pieces, and veer towards Twitter, Facebook and other social networking platforms, it appears that we are losing the benefits of length.

Wait, hang on a minute. Am I telling you to be verbose and long-winded while beating about the bush? Isn’t instant, real-time and succinct responses the beauty of the age of digitisation?

Well, before we get all fired up in a 140 character frenzy, consider this:

* The greatest works of literature on the planet are not thin. Think the Bible, Koran and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

* Getting a PhD – the crowning glory of education (to some) – often requires one to write a pretty voluminous 100 page (or more) dissertation (of 100,000 words or more).

* Even advertising is going towards the long form with the phenomenon of branded entertainment, and this is further evidenced by the rise of Transmedia Storytelling.

* If you think about, sustaining a blog over a long haul is a form of long form writing, broken into multiple short chapters. However, most blog posts are short excerpts rather than thoughtfully articulated and nuanced pieces.

One of the greatest dangers arising from the ubiquity of weapons of mass distraction is that it reduces our ability to focus and concentrate.

Think about it. When was the last time you went to a meeting without stopping at least once, twice or more to glance at your mobile?

The frequent breaks in attention may also affect our ability to write and analyse critically. Strategic plans, business analysis, competitive intelligence, and market research all requires long, hard and drawn-out study and interpretation.

In fact, one of the greatest dangers of veering towards short methods of presenting (like powerpoint) is that it can make you stupid. Just ask the US Army about the folly of digital versus real bullets.

What can one do about this?

First, take a deep breath and try to clear yourself of all distractions. Switch off the mobile, turn off the blackberry, and log out of MSN, Facebook, and Twitter.

Next, try to read a book with at least 300 pages or more every day. It doesn’t matter what your progress is like, so long as you chisel away at the tome, bit by bit. Subscribing and reading the quality press – Business Week, The Economist, and Financial Times – may also help you to digest more complex information and to reproduce them when needed.

You can also try to keep a blog, a paper diary, or a wiki of your life, and force yourself to pen some words or phrases regularly. Use this platform to engage in analytical exercises and stretch yourself intellectually and linguistically.

Finally, one should embrace the concept of lifelong learning and be willing to learn newer and more complex concepts, theories and ideas. A good habit is to write down and reproduce what you have learnt at conferences and workshops.

PS – For those of you who hanker to read longer and more well-developed articles, check out this great resource.

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  1. posted on Jun 09, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    I agree with what you’re saying here, Walter. But hey, War and Peace? Not a good example, imo! LOL :)

  2. Suzy Goulding
    posted on Jun 10, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    There is nothing more relaxing or all-encompassing than losing yourself in a really good book. My ideal holiday is a comfy seat and at least 15 books- that’s all I need to be happy!

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