On the 150th anniversary (November 19, 2013) of the Gettysburg address, for this column, I wrote 272 words.
My thinking: if he could put that much meaning and impact into 272 words, why shouldn’t that quality of conciseness, and impact, be my goal?
Since then: often 136, sometimes 544, sometimes more …
Most days, 272.
I don’t start out with 272 as my goal – except today.
Once I have captured my verbosity du jour on this page, I edit. I polish.
Time constraints limit polishing-time, but I strive to edit to my target numbers of 272, 136 and 544. These targets have become instructive for this oft-rambling writer.
Being brief, on-point with message, communicating effectively – Lincoln schooled the world that day.
Reading it, learning it, I’ve become a focused devotee.
His draft (one scratch-out) written aboard his train from Washington DC to Gettysburg November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered 272 magnificently crafted words.
Lincoln wasn’t well. Still, he mingled with his audience for several hours before delivering his dedication to that cemetery, part of that Battle of Gettysburg place, where an estimated 46,000 – 51,000 soldiers perished. Five near-identical versions cause historians angst over which handwritten copy was the one.
Sure, there were other reasons for his brevity – political reasons for his content, but mostly he was speaking to, of, and about lives of soldiers who’d died in a cause, whose painful loss ought not to have been in vain.
Lincoln’s lessons in humanity, speechmaking and leadership long lasted, he taught so much, so memorably, and taught me the power of brevity.
First draft today, 389 words.
This, many scratch-outs later, is 272.
column written/ published from Calgary, AB
morning walk: 3C/38F, calm, lightly overcast, (predicted to got to 63F this afternoon – woohoo!), dark dark dark, Gusta wanted to chase some people who were half-sprinting to their train, so I had no choice but to jog a little with her to save my shoulder being wrenched.
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