More than envying oratorical prowess, to better appreciate his wordsmithing magic – seeing where, knowing why, became my quest. Fulfilled last summer. By that I mean ‘going there’. The being that good part apparently takes longer.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address widely heralded ‘best speech ever by anyone’, endures. His brilliant writing skill packed so much into 272 words.
Lincoln was requested specifically to be brief, to ‘say a few words’, wrapping up a lengthy graveyard dedication program. Following Edward Everett’s two hour speech, no loudspeakers, public and media standing in the cold – he spoke from where public Evergreen Cemetery is today, memorializing 50,000 soldiers who didn’t survive the Battle of Gettysburg.
His task – dedicating that cemetery – just 272 words. (Some scholars say 271 – there are five ‘originals’). His message drew a fractured nation together again, to honour those dead, to give hope and faith to those who had lost hope, to those who had lost faith – and he did it in under two minutes.
For several years I’ve tried limiting Musing columns to 272 words; though 136 has become my weekday norm, longer on weekends.
His inspiration causes me to write more economically; to be of value, to be brief – has gone well beyond history lesson. More mystery lesson, I try to emulate his magic in writing with brevity, finding ways to economize in words without diminishing a message. My efforts to ‘write to 272’ or some multiple or fraction of that consistently reminds me to aim high in quality and brief in length.