“Nearly everything we are taught is false except how to read.” So says poet Jim Harrison, who apparently has an ax to grind.
“A picture paints a thousand words.” So says Frederick R. Barnard, in Printer’s Ink, a national trade magazine for advertising.
Barnard also had an ax to grind, but then that magazine went out of business.
Ancient peoples wrote in pictures painted on rocks, a form of expression which is real and lasting. Later people learned to chisel words into rocks.
Then came paper and ink.
Now it’s bits and screens, perhaps not as enduring as rock or paper.
Temple Grandin says language gets in the way of visual thinking, that words tend to cloud some ways of thinking. What does this all mean in the age of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, which all feed into short attention span, and in a world where success is determined by “Likes?”
In journalism school we were taught to write short. The “Five Ws and the H” first. Everything else can be cut from the bottom. An editor once told me the end of the world could be written in 10 column inches.
It’s also struck me that poetry is a form of condensing words into a picture.
As both a photographer and writer I see that pictures get way more “likes” than the words. I’ve been conducting an unscientific study, which I think is unbiased since nobody’s paying to view or to read. The photos win hands-down, 5-1 or better.
There also have been instances when I have posted something to read and someone has “liked” it so fast I know there’s no way they could have actually read it.
If you write a book, however, longer is often believed to be better. But will anyone read it? Or will they skip through it looking for the pictures, those you’ve painted with words? Or go right to the ending?
In this new age of expression it’s up to those who create to figure out how best to get their ideas out there. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from poets.
Like those who painted rock walls before us, we have no other choice. We can blame electronic media but then did the ancients blame rock walls?