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Speak Out: A Call for Artistry

By William Pomeroy
ART TIMES November/ December 2011

In five minutes, I just wrote a letter to the jury commissioner.  I wager it was better than what technical writers compose over long intervals, and yet the commissioner’s secretary stood over her empty desk for about ten seconds, “reading” it. —“Okay.  So you want to be released from Jury Duty because you’re living ‘over’ in New York.”

Does this so-called information-based world allow people to focus on presentation at all, anymore?  Presentation is—at the very least—just as important as what it presents.  Or am I alone in this viewpoint?  I think not—or, rather, I hope people are more conscious of the opposite.

That President Obama is the first to inspire movement (officially) toward Social Healthcare in America is no coincidence.  He is a powerful speaker; no one can disagree.  Even those who try and use Obama’s influence as a means for criticizing him assume that he is not only captivating, but inspirational.  The “information” contained in “Social Healthcare” as a policy does not—as a businessman might put—sell itself. —It needs a presentation that resonates with people individually.

But I look at writing today, and with few exceptions, it looks the same.  All of it.  In scholarship, in journalism, even in fiction, people are focusing solely on information, and so evocation—or uniqueness in presentation—is entirely missing.  This same deficiency prompted Kierkegaard to say, “There is a more formal style that is so formal that it is not very significant and, once it is all too familiar, readily becomes meaningless.” * Two hundred years later, if anything more authors (evidently) believe that writing in a reserved, clear and grammatically “correct” style is sufficient.  But such writing does not resonate with people.  If it did, then more authors would be inspiring people to read for presentation.  They would understand that writing is an art form, not just a means for displaying facts.

For better or worse, one must admit that politicians are seeking to inspire.  Apart from moral duty, often the judgment of a “good” politician rests on how inspirational one can be.  Is writing any different?  Should one judge authors on some other basis?  Surely politicians are not the only ones capable of affecting their listeners deeply, and inspiring action.

(William Pomeroy lives in New York City)

*Kierkegaard, Soren.  The Sickness Unto Death.  Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980.  See page 6.