This was a street sign that went up all over NYC during the tenure of Mayor Ed Koch, one of the most colorful of the New York City mayors of my lifetime. As the 80s icon of New York himself (loud, brash, and opinionated) he understood his city very well—well enough to know New Yorkers didn’t pay attention to street signs. So in the early 1980s Hizzoner developed a campaign to talk the way the man on the street talks, with this and another sign: “Don’t even THINK of parking here.”
People laughed (I still do), and they listened.
I haven’t lived in New York for decades and I still remember those signs. And it was easy enough to test my memory. When I did a keyword search for the title of the post, I came up with a 2004 post from Big Apple Corner that verified the very same signs.
But this is not a post about Ed Koch, or New York City, for that matter. There are plenty of better sources for that. It’s a simple lesson in making every word count, which is easy to remember if you have a very limited word or character count, as on a street sign, but it’s even more important in longer pieces, and especially your own creative work. The number one goal of any kind of writing is to engage. The minute you lose your audience, you’re done.
If it doesn’t say something new or interesting, then why write it down?
I try to keep the word count to these posts under 1000 words. Certainly that’s generous for many of the general musings posts (such as this one), but I often have trouble containing my instinct to splash on the screen every word on a subject I can think of—and I think of many. It’s a challenge to stick to the limits for detailed articles about artists (see Andrew Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Jackson Pollock), and sometimes my interviews with people active in the arts have to be split into two posts (Carl Heilman, Gathering of the Vibes) to make the 1000 word cut. I could easily do longer posts, but most people probably haven’t even read this far, so it’s best to stick to the rules of journalism and marketing both: keep it short and to the point!
I leave you with a great post from online marketing guru Brian Clark, of Copyblogger, which talks about the basics of getting and keeping someone’s attention for marketing purposes. Artistic writers (including screenwriters, short story writers, songwriters and even poets) often forget they are in the business of marketing—marketing themselves, with every word they write.
Sometimes it only takes one line to be remembered—no kidding.
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