Before I lost my job amid the corporate shuffle of a 21st Century newsroom, I spent 15 years working to become the writer my philosophy professor declared I would never be.
Since then I’ve learned that some nights are sleepless, filled with thoughts of undeveloped stories; colors are more willing to reveal their secrets; conversations are fodder for unwritten fiction; and people are often characters who may or may not make it to a page. Most importantly, I’ve learned that time passes too quickly.
I like to think of myself as an observer of “la belle vie,” the beautiful life. Sometimes it’s why I’m so critical of the everyday world and its sloppy abuses of nature. I see the hourglass unapologetically draining its sand while so many people never see those millions of unique specks glistening in the sun.
Even as a writer-in-progress (I like to think I’m still progressing) I didn’t truly value my own surroundings until I began to meet the people who lived the stories I wanted to tell.
From the centenarian who remembered riding in her first car—one with tasseled window curtains and a rumble seat—to the nonagenarian with flowing silver hair, her mind locked away while her voice echoed Bible verses and the Songs of God laid upon her heart during a bygone Sunday Service, I learned most everyone has a story that wants to be told.
In today’s technological hustle and flow, articles and even works of fiction are churned out by the hundreds every hour. Most of them, despite their value in Likes or Upvotes, carry nothing more than a superficial, glittering half-life filled with typos and generalities gathered from other likeminded resources around the Web.
Last week, having clicked one I couldn’t help notice below the headline, even before the author’s name, the article’s “Average Read Time.”
“Six minutes,” it stated in bold type. Because life’s so busy we have to microwave our knowledge like a Hot Pocket?
Maybe a six-minute read makes for good time management, but considering that the general public’s ability to retain only 10 percent of what it reads, I thought less of the story, its relevance and ultimately the person who wrote it.
Unfortunately, one of our most valuable tools for free speech, the Blogosphere, has introduced the world to uninformed citizen journalism. Despite authors who use it to weave the fabric of their stories, many self-proclaimed writers are only in it for the Five Steps to Online Success:
Step 1: Grab a topic; Step 2: Google some details; Step 3: Make them readable; Step 4: Click “Publish;” Step 5: Get followers to obtain “Guru” status and win a Pulitzer on “How to Knit Socks For Cats.”
Meanwhile, most of them think George Washington was the first King of England and the Cold War was about life below 40 degrees.
Six minutes isn’t a story. That’s time to become involved in content and want to learn more. Not journalism. Sadly, that seems to be the approach that works for Pop culture.
Real stories are seldom found in fashion tips and trending hashtags. They’re in the careworn faces and calloused hands of the everyday woman and man. It takes longer than six minutes to read about their songs and listen to their tall tales, hear a tremble in their vocal cords, eager to tell their stories. And it’s up to us to get it right.