Will you Please be my TL;DR?
“I won’t do it”, I said. “My writing will not be a mere TL;DR version of other people’s work”.
He laughed. Even his laugh seemed like a condensed version of an already published longer laughter elsewhere.
This was all driving me nuts — this business of finding an audience.
Here I was, thinking I had finally cracked the creativity code. After a lot of soul searching last year, I had finally reached an agreement with myself. I’d forget about audience reach, social media and all the rest of it and only create for joy and contentment. And I have been doing that ever since. It’s been so liberating. Still, on some days, all that hard-won mental balance goes out the window. On such days, you can actually see a thundercloud hovering over my head. And you might even hear my inner baby screaming relentlessly “Why won’t nobody read me?”
On such days I just do what any sane person should do — feed on more garbage on how to “make” it as a writer. I read all these brilliant ways to do the dirty on my imaginary audience and drag them kicking and screaming into my realm. I read tips and tricks on how to make them stay and keep coming back for more. I learn about new ways to clench my digital bottom and do more marketing. Nothing helps of course. Mini me from within wails even harder. And my head feels worse than before. That’s when I usually shout —
“Malarkey! Pure, unadulterated malarkey!!” and leave the table to pound on my laptop and get more of my unconditional shiite out into the world.
That morning though, instead of his usual empathetic smile over the rim of the coffee mug, he suggested I take the “TL;DR route” to find my success. “Everyone’s doing it” he said. “Take a GOAT article, and turn it into a good, tight TL;DR. It might get you your initial readership”. He said. That’s when I went on a rampage about how dirty the world was and would someone please rescue poor, honest, wannabe writers like me who only want to go on creating poor, honest, wannabe work without all the slimy moves. After ten minutes of rant, I had exhausted all the expletives known to mankind and other writers. So I took a short nap, had more coffee and typed this story out. For the reading pleasure of my non-audience (who will henceforth be referred to as Naudience in my future writings)
Down the Rabbit Hole — What in fact, is “TL;DR”?
I am sure you know this already. Especially if you are a Redditor. But in service of jargon-free content, I’ll try to describe it again. It’s just a way of condensing someone else’s longer creative piece into a shorter piece. It’s like watching the highlights of a past game. It used to be called paraphrasing when times were simpler and dinosaurs roamed the earth.
TL;DR is what happens when someone says that an article is “Too long; didn’t read” and someone else decides to help them out by tearing it up into smaller morsels and spoon feeding just so they don’t choke on the big chunks.
The usage is interesting. It is usually used to mean the opposite. You say you are writing a TL;DR version of something when you are writing a short extract of it. You extract the essential juices from the original piece, apply your own filter to it and then present it in a sippy cup so even babies can chug it. And if some babies decide to repeat the process and in turn TL;DR the heck out of your TL;DR, that’s perfectly legit.
“EAT ME” Alice — How to TL;DR something
So now this is a verb, right? Here’s how this works. Take a popular article, preferably a GOAT(greatest of all times). It’s only the most authoritative book/article/post/industry benchmark article you can find. So you take one of those in your favourite field. Now remove the bulky parts where the flavour and style of the original author hide and make your own distilled version of it. That’s it.
Another, even easier way is to find a child of five, then treat her as if she is thirty five and tweak the original article in a way that this child (and anyone else) would totally fail to understand any of it. That’s it. That’s your TL;DR version.
Is TL;DR equal to repurposing content?
Nope. Yes. Maybe?
Putting up your content in multiple platforms is a popular strategy to maximise visibility and improve reachability. (Ugh. There it is again. Visibility. Reachability. Wait, I have to go and throw up. Ok, I’m back). Most of us do it. But TL;DR is not that.
TL;DR is a special machine that can swallows extensive work and spit out soft chewable pellets. We all know how deficit our attention is getting these days. the only way to improve the situation is to enable it further and make it even worse right? So let’s do this. Remember. Each time a TL;DR is born, it is time to rejoice. Humankind has been saved from becoming too clever again.
How small can Alice get — How many times can you condense a piece of writing?
Oh, as small as you want. Believe you me. It happens all the time. Big books get condensed into long form articles. These long forms get chopped down to short posts. These short posts can get progressively shorter. Until someone decides to take them on a Twitter pilgrimage. Ahhhh. Now that’s a destination.
Here, all content comes to surrender. It is now finally done. You can’t do any more. Until someone takes your tweet and decides to expand it all over again. The circle of content. Who can stop it?
So where does this all end?
Who knows? I certainly don’t. But I can tell you this much. If you can make yourself buy into it, you’ll maybe have a shot at staying upright, while the content bulls trample other clueless writers in their dash towards social media glory.