More or less

One of my purposes in deciding to write a blog – indeed, the primary purpose – was to find somewhere to express the ideas buzzing around in my head. If the ideas engendered conversation, then that would be a bonus, but it was not a prerequisite.

Yet, while the ideas have not abated in any noticeable way, finding the time to create a semi-coherent entry has become harder. It’s almost as if, in providing a potential outlet for random thoughts, the whole mob of them has decided to seize the opportunity and demand more serious attention. And next the dilemma of focusing and writing about one during the very limited time available. I can create an entry in my head – but lose the flow when trying to recall it later. I can also, as I have here, draft something on paper during odd gaps in the day, waiting for a friend or sitting on the bus or in a cafe. I notice then that my style of writing is different – the pen moves on, I don’t mistype or have to deal with the sticky D on my keyboard. With a faster, smoother recording implement I can write in a looser fashion and keep up better with my brain. But, as family and friends will tell you, I’m not a great typist.

Without dwelling on the issue of access to the blog, I am interested in the one on style. The other aspect of of this is the Twitter effect; thousands of people condensing ideas into compressed squirts of text. I was distressed to find Stephen Fry abandoning his "blessays" for Twitter. While I am sure his tweets will be witty and thoughtful at least some of the time, I miss having something more substantial to read – the equivalent of the Sunday papers.

How we write or express ourselves can affect the way we think, and therefore behave. Plenty of research exists (I’m not pointing you to any; I’m sure you can google it, and I am writing this in a cafe) to demonstrate the impact of writing systems on perception, art and culture. I am interested to know what has been done on the modern variations of texting and tweeting – beyond giving the Language Purists a field day over the new editions of various serious dictionaries.

One of my pleasures, if I can call it that, is seeing how the English language evolves and mutates and absorbs other languages. I know this happens elsewhere too, no matter what the Academie Francaise may wish. English has absorbed foreign words both as invader and invadee; this has given us an amazing analytical tool (why are so many farming words derived from Saxon, but high society words from Norman French? Well, that’s not hard to answer, but I’m making the point.); it has also given us the cryptic crossword and the pun. Basically, we enjoy playing with words. Nothing pleases a toddler more than rhyming games an nonsense talk; Dr. Seuss, enough said. As adults we love a clever newspaper headline; same thing.

So, back to tweets (you can see why I don’t do Twitter). The constraint on length of tweet presents a challenge akin to writing a great headline, strapline or similar. In my case, that would be even more time consuming to devise than the stream of consciousness before you now. "Less is more" never was more apposite.

My solution to finding more time to externalise musings, then, is not to Twitter, despite readier accessibility. The only alternative I can currently conceive is a dictation device. I have previously used such software to dictate documents, so theoretically I could record pieces and either type them up or run them through the computer as a sound file later. Again, I am aware that this affects my style significantly . Plus I’d look like a weirdo talking to myself in public.

Conclusion: the world remains safe from a dramatically increased public output. However, I do need to buy more pens and a new notebook.

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