Quality Over Quantity

Shouters seem to be getting rewarded for their active-not-listening these days. We’re seduced by both the volume and velocity of their words, which are strategically intended to overwhelm rather than convince. Those of us who try to think before we speak, who choose our words more carefully, are simply drowned out.

But before this becomes a political rant, I’ll move on to my intended topic: the benefit of prioritizing quality over quantity. In communications as well as several other aspects of life, I’m seeing a trend toward “more” rather than “better.” Flooded with options, we have too many choices in entertainment and news, and definitely too much blending of the two. (Maybe you think there are too many blog posts from your favorite author.) As our attention spans grow shorter, is there any way to escape back to more thoughtful interactions? Fewer words, spoken rather than shouted?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how long books and articles and blogs should be. Google “best word count for SEO” and even Forbes has weighed in (with a rather short post). Like skirt lengths there are yearly trends, though most advice seems to creep in the direction of “shorter,” with the occasional correction.

The answer I keep coming back to applies equally well to every piece I write: “Exactly as long as it needs to be.”

I recently finished a book called This Must Be the Place (you’ll read the review in a few weeks) that I thought was the right length; many other reviewers thought it was much too long. Because the writing was so lyrical, I didn’t mind most of the meanders that others found distracting. The answer will vary by reader—and by medium as well. If I’d read that book on a computer, I never would’ve made it all the way to the end.

So how do we know what’s “enough” communication in either length or frequency? Since it’s different for each one of us, there’s only one way to figure it out: turn off the constant barrage of opinions telling us what’s right every moment of every day, and listen to our own hearts.

And wouldn’t it be great if listening to our hearts led us to be better listeners in general? Paying so much attention to carefully chosen quality words that we tune out the quantity of shouting and yelling; less minds-made-up-already, more thoughtful discussion?

And since that is exactly as long as this post needs to be, I’ll end it right here.

PS: As always, I’m curious for your thoughts about this topic, so please add your comments below.

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4 Replies to “Quality Over Quantity”

  1. Good morning Carol! I completely agree! The end is when you choose it to be. In literature, I think Anna Karenina and Don Quixote were each about 300 pp too long, yet still models of perfection. So who is to say? Writers are artists, and it takes many layers to work that magic.
    (*p.s. I think your posts are a perfect length, and can’t wait to read the new book!)

    1. Lynne, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Another book I just finished (13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley) has inspired me to read/reread a few classics, and AK and DQ are definitely on the list. I will see if I agree with you about the extra 300 pages (last time I read them, much younger, they seemed insurmountable.) Layers are a good way to think about the magic of writing; no surprise a poet would come up with that. 🙂

  2. Hi Carol, I like this piece as it is juicy and makes one think about different scenarios. I’m going to comment on the timing part as I only have a fee minutes (teehee).
    In the fast pace of today, it seems we allocate everything into 15 segments. Often if the point of a conversation has not been determined within 15 minutes, it is dropped. That is precisely why travelling is so wonderful, we have a whole flight to talk with someone and there doesn’t have to be a reason. It’s too bad we don’t do this in our daily relationships. Next weekend, perhaps some unstructured time outdoors could create just the opportunity to have a meandering meaningful conversation with family & friends that takes perhaps 20- 30 minutes! Xoxo

  3. Sharon, love the “juicy” comment. Agreed about flights (with the right companion); leisurely chats with strangers is one of the best parts of traveling solo. Thanks for reading!

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