Part of what I do for a living is write. The other part is read. Much like a red-assed baboon who can’t pelt you with fistfulls of shit until it has filled its gullet with starchy zoo food, I can’t do the writing without first completing the reading.
Years ago, I’d drive my Dodge Dart to the mall, flush with paper route money, to buy a novel. Slowly moving from shelf to shelf and aisle to aisle, I’d look at each book in turn. Once I made my selection and paid the patchouli-scented cashier in the Ramones T-shirt, I’d refuse a bag so that I could hold the book itself as I walked back to the Dart. At home, I’d go into my room and read every word. The cover, the jacket, the reviews on the first few pages. The introduction and the author’s bio.
Mmm, starchy zoo food.
With each chapter completed, I felt smarter. Hell, I was smarter. My vocabulary increased and I considered ideas that weren’t indigenous to Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was lovely to have the time and inclination to do nothing on a Wednesday evening but read.
Today I read in bursts. Press releases are a great example. “Dear iPod vendor,” one might begin. It’s the personal touch that I appreciate. And the fact that I’ve never sold an iPod. Next comes what I call the “parade banter.” This is the type of tripe that’s typically passed between Matt and Willard during the Macy’s Parade. The copy that makes the “Suite Life of Zach and Cody” writers say, “For the love of God, shut the fuck up.” Finally the pitch goes on for at least 1,200 words.
While that’s long-form torture, Twitter is like the spray of a sawed-off shotgun, each pellet a 140-character projectile, and the shooter is the fastest in the west.
Chick-chick, POW! Chick-chick, POW!
The thing is, I love being shot. I love the tech-y articles. I read them all day…and then attempt to have a meaningful conversation (fail). Or I sit down to write something and the cursor asks, “Got anything good up there, Davey?” like a pudgy, red-faced schoolyard bully. “Are your gunney works full of starchy zoo food?”
The answer is no. I don’t have 3,500-word thoughts anymore. I have 250-word thoughts. I blame the reading. The reading feeds the writing. I picked up Sputnik Sweetheart by my man Haruki Murakami and intend to sit on the bed, turn off the tweeting and read something that isn’t a pitch, has more than 2 sentences and maybe, just maybe, generates some new brain cells. Because right now I could really use some more.