I haven’t been writing here recently, and a few of you now have asked about it.
It’s not that there’s nothing new to say; that’s for sure. Every time I read the news, something jumps out at me that begs for a response. The media is constantly over-hyping the unimportant; that’s worth a mention. Likewise, during the ensuing firestorm, there’s always things that get missed. Then too, most of last week’s stories were misreported, but now they’ve fallen off the front page there’s nobody out there correcting the record.
So there’s plenty of worthy topics, and that’s if I just stick to commenting on the media and politics.
But I’ve come to realize that my problem — and it is my problem — has less to do with the subject matter than what my audience is willing to read.
As a society we’re overexposed to communication and news of one form or another is the major topic. You’re all familiar with how addictive Facebook or Twitter can be, and it’s not because there’s a dearth of fascinating content. And the news— Let me tell you a little story about news.
For some years I ran a small shop, and while awaiting the occasional customer I was visited by an endless parade of fascinating characters. One of the strangest was a fellow named Clifford, a middle-aged gentleman not much given either to personal hygiene or to taking his medication. His peculiar mania centered on the news; he would alternate between three channels and volubly (yet incoherently) offer criticism. Our store had no television, but he did quite well from memory alone; only rarely did he run out of words before I ran out of time.
You may have gathered that Clifford was not the most stable fellow.
He was obsessed with news; he watched it endlessly, and so far as I could tell aimlessly. He wasn’t trying to find out who to vote for or to fine-tune his investment portfolio; no, he simply felt compelled to watch, and then he was equally compelled to talk about it — regardless of the interest level of his audience.
There are two obvious lessons here: first, that while you may not need to be insane to enjoy constant news bombardment, it certainly helps; and second, that it’s no kindness to bore people to tears by talking about things they have no wish to hear.
Which brings us neatly back to my problem.
One of the messages I’ve been harping on over the past couple of years is that the major thing to fight in both politicians and voters alike is ideological extremism. However, a majority of Americans — and a heavy majority of my target audience — fears and hates Donald Trump. A small but loyal minority loves him. Now, call Trump what you will, but he’s no extremist, and the only ideal he seems to be fervent about is Narcissism.
Which means that anything I write about Trump (and what isn’t about Trump these days?) can hardly appeal to my readers.
Likewise, if I tell you that the upcoming fight over the next seat on the Supreme Court is neither terrifying nor even very important, you probably won’t want to hear about it. If I let you know that Elizabeth Warren commissioned a biography to jump-start her 2020 Presidential campaign, you really won’t want to be told about the evasions and inaccuracies it contains. If I were to let you in on some of the recent stories that haven’t been covered because they’re not sexy (Puerto Rico, politics and drugs in Mexico, and the organized campaign to destroy local news reporting in America) you’ll probably just yawn and click on the next story. (Which probably won’t be about anything local.)
But this isn’t your problem; it’s mine. I’ve been writing the wrong sermon — not what people want to read about, certainly, but also not what they need to read. After all, even if something’s the absolute truth and of vital importance, it won’t do anyone any good if they don’t find it interesting enough to read. And that part is on me.
My goal right along has been to teach myself how to write, and the next lesson appears to be how to write what people will want to read. I don’t know what my next topic will be; for that matter, I don’t know if it’ll even be via this medium. But I will try to make it interesting.