Wednesday, January 31, 2018

WIP: A very short post about introductions and about complexity...

One of my tasks for today is finishing writing the introduction for next week's episode of Talking Radical Radio. And that has me thinking about the challenge of representing complexity in writing.

After almost five years of doing the show, I have a pretty solidly established routine for each week, in terms of editing/producing the episode for the following week. Ideally, writing the introduction is something that begins and ends on Tuesdays, though I don't always manage that, and today is one of those not-unusual instances where the writing has taken long enough to bleed over into Wednesday.

In principle, introductions are pretty simple things: They are meant to be short, and their job is to give listeners the info they need to be able to understand what they are about to hear. But they don't often feel simple. I tend to do more than the bare minimum in my introductions, though, often not just setting the stage for the interviewee's words, but giving an overview of what they will cover, and when I can, suggesting an idea or two illustrated by or framing the episode.

Which isn't ideal – the majority of the time, for this kind of writing as for so many others, shorter and simpler is better. I often have to actively resist my impulse to do too much.

But part of the problem is that I want to do as much as possible to capture the complexity of the real world. The world is complex. And understanding how things happen is often key to effectively changing them. So I feel pulled to say more, to use examples, to name exceptions, to flesh-out context, to use language that is more exact but also more cumbersome. And I feel pulled to find ways to include ideas that are maybe less familiar, less easy to communicate concisely, but that do get at something important.

It's a constant tension – to capture as much of that complexity as I can without compromising the basic job of an introduction, which is to introduce what is to come in a way that engages and informs and sets things up for the real point of the show, the interviewee's words.

And that's what I'm about to get back to right now. Next week's show is about reducing barriers in the health system at the intersections of sexual health and mental health – fascinating, complex, important and something that a few-minute intro will never say enough about.

But now I'm off to use my writerly crowbar to continue leveraging as much as I possibly can into the space that I have.

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