Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.


In marking the passage of time, different people have different strategies.

Some folks like to notice anniversaries in multiples of four years. Maybe it’s an Olympic thing; perhaps it has to do with the length of a Presidential administration. (In a lot of towns, elementary school ends after the fourth grade; middle school after the eighth; and high school after the twelfth. Eh, it’s a thought.)

United States Senate terms last six years. I’m at a loss to come up with any other reason why multiples of six would appeal to anniversary observers.

Clearly, multiples of ten work for a great many people. And multiples of five work nearly as well, especially the 25s and sometimes even the fifteens.

Five years ago tomorrow, I started this blog project.

I thought it would be a mainly music- and music-education- oriented thing, with a dash of journalistic critique thrown in (those are my degrees, after all … write about what you claim to know).

More than three hundred essays later (did I even write three hundred essays in my whole K-12 school career? I don’t think so), it’s turned out to be a repository for those subjects, indeed … and for many others as well, some of which I had exactly no expectation of addressing. I’ve tackled politics, religion, Deflategate, and certain Very Young Singing Sensations. Y’know … the third-rail topics.

I’ve also had occasion to opine about silly, fluffy, inconsequential topics. And I’ve used this space to appreciate important people, and to eulogize others – celebrities, yes, but also (and, I think, more meaningfully) people in my life who were significant as well as successful.

There have been comments posted in response to some blog posts – less than a third of them, I would judge; and I’ve been interested to notice which posts I thought would draw heavy fire, and which wouldn’t, and how often my predictions about that have been firmly mistaken. Mostly, the commenters have been very kind. On the rare occasions when they haven’t, I’ve been encouraged to take a close look at what I write, how I express myself, and how those critical comments may affect the level of bravado of the things I write next.

Let’s just say that in the first 18 months, I was pretty blunt – at least in the context of the [prototypical Prairie Home Companion shy-person] personality that I exhibit when dealing with people face-to-face. After the Great Evancho Kerfuffle of 2011, I have assuredly increased the number of “last looks” at an essay that happen before I hit “publish”.

If there’s a weakness to my writing, it’s wrapped up in the matter of, well, length. The WordPress blog maintenance website has a number of tools that bloggers can access, and one of those is a very simple word counter. I’ll finish a piece, and the word count will typically be anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000.

For a sense of scale, if you’re writing a newspaper column – as I hoped to do, when I was picking out colleges and majors – when you hit 800 words in an article, they tell you to stop.

So, when I think I’ve written what I need to, how I need to, and as effusively as I need to … it’s double or triple what a newspaper op-ed editor would expect to deal with.


Two or three pieces have clocked in around 3,000 words. One of them was quite honestly a musical laundry list, disguised as a record review. I was so stunned by the sheer volume of my verbiage that afterward, I published a follow-up piece that was an apologetic haiku. Seventeen syllables, fourteen words; thank you and good night.

I’ve received advice, both from actual humans and from online articles about blogging, that suggest that the shorter and punchier the article, the more likely people are to read to the end. One article also noted that shorter paragraphs are best for keeping people engaged.

A tiny part of me rebelled at that. The length of the average American’s attention span is not even 30 minutes, the length of a sitcom – it’s more like seven or eight minutes, which gets you from one commercial break to the next. Small wonder why Garrison Keillor sometimes takes heat for his rambling and decidedly slow-motion “News from Lake Wobegon” monologues.

And on an increasing number of programs, notably “The Big Bang Theory”, individual sitcom scenes are more and more often one- or two-joke affairs: forty seconds, and there’s another cute animated-electron sequence, and we’re on to the next little scene. Bang Bang Bang Bang.

So, here I am, caught in the middle of that fight: part of me wants to single-handedly increase an entire country’s capacity for long-form communication … and another part of me wants more hits.

Ah yes. The struggle of the twenty-first century artiste.

Well. I suspect I’ll just concentrate on making a good point, telling a cohesive story; it’ll take as long as it takes, and I’ll let the chips flop wherever on the table they may land. I don’t suppose that I started this blog as a money-making venture, or for the gratification of Lots Of Hits (even though when I have an unusually Hit-laden day, I do get a nice warm glow).

If lots of (or even a few) people pause to read, I am appreciative. If they like what they read, so much the better.

On to the next half-decade, then. And great thanks for being part of this first one.


September 2, 2015 - Posted by | blogging, writing | , , , , , , ,

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