Amy Lewis just published a post I like a lot, “Consume and Be Thankful“. The executive summary is “Shut up and listen”. In other words, publishing content should not be the sole focus of being a community member, much less a leader. This is exactly the opposite approach advocated lately by Om Malik, Greg Ferro and others, challenging themselves and others to publish 30 blogs in 30 days.
When I first saw the 30in30 posts, my first thought was “Why?”, as in “Why write unless you have something you need to say?” Several blogger and writer friends have said that having an established discipline of writing at a certain time each day helps keep the juices flowing, and I can see how that would be so for some (although it’s not for me–I write only when driven to it by my muse). On the other hand, not everything you write needs to be published. (The editorial profession exists for good reason!) The discipline can be observed for one’s own purposes, but why dilute the quality of what you share with the rest of the world simply for the sake of hitting a self-imposed number? I’m admittedly more persnickety than most, but poor writing has made me ragequit books on otherwise interesting topics, and there are blogs where the Publish Or Perish mentality is so evident that the work involved in sifting through the volume of content for the quality nuggets is increasingly more trouble than it’s worth to me. Do yourself and your readers a favor: don’t be That Blogger. Write every day if it helps you, but unless you’re being paid by the word like Dickens (and let’s be honest, how many of us really like reading Dickens?) don’t be afraid to be a good editor too.
“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” ― George Eliot
Which brings us to the reason Amy highlights for Shutting Up: listening. Being a good community member, like being a good friend, requires that you listen as well as talk. There’s also a need for overall balance within a community. Some will naturally listen more than they talk, and some, especially those known primarily as pundits or marketers, will talk a lot more. People have different goals for their community experiences, which drives their behavior in one direction or the other. But engagement, not monologues alone, tends to yield a richer and more productive experience for everyone involved.
“It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence” ― Seneca
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I made my own recording of 4’33” for a friend as a gift. I taped the sounds of walking out on a stage and sitting down, and some stopwatch noises. Following the directions for the duration of the score, I simply included three recordings from three places I’d “performed” the piece before (I don’t remember the order of the sections or the durations just at the moment) by including the ambient noise from all three locations:
In front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.
By the carp pond at the Meiji Gardens in Tokyo.
A highway overpass somewhere west of Wendover, Utah.
It’s still my favorite recording. When I’ve got the time, I plan to replace the highway section with a recording from a windmill farm in the north of the Netherlands (once I can get a good recording).