Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. Go ahead, you can still read it; it’s actually not that long. You may even find a bit of irony and humor in it. Maybe.

It’s been said (by some supposedly wise person), that a picture is worth a thousand words. But that’s just a saying and it’s not really true. Sometimes, what may seem like wit and wisdom is nothing more than mere words. Sure, those words may sound nice and cause a person to think, but they can’t always be taken literally. This I know. What follows is a short story of how I know this.

Back in school, high school to be specific, I once turned in a very vibrant and colorful picture for a seven hundred fifty word essay assignment - and figured I had it covered. Lucky for me, my teacher had a sense of humor. Instead of giving me an “F” as he probably should have done, he handed the picture back the next morning and said, “That’s cute. Try again.” But, he was smiling!

I had written an essay, as I was supposed to, and I gave it to him. And even though it had technically been turned in late, he didn’t mark my grade down because of it. And that left me a little disappointed. I’d really expected him to mark me down and was even prepared for it. In fact, I’d written another essay based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. This second essay served to “prove” my point that since time is indeed relative, nothing can ever be said to be late. After all, if there is no fixed time standard what could possibly be used to establish the basis for the concept of late?

I think my teacher may have known me too well. He hadn’t marked down my grade precisely because he probably knew what was coming given my history of behavior on such things. Any time I took a test and happened to get an answer wrong, almost any answer, I would argue the point. More often than not, I was able to persuade him that my answer, while perhaps not the best answer and maybe not the answer he was looking for, was at least partially correct. Sometimes I convinced him that my answer was one hundred percent correct! Those were the moments I reveled in! Usually, whether my answers were completely right or only partially right, my test scores were amended, due to my willingness to press the issue. Yet, this time, he had robbed me of the opportunity! I’d written the second essay for nothing, though I really couldn’t complain.

Now for the downside. Although I hadn’t received points off of my grade for turning in a late assignment, the teacher did mark me down for going over the limit on words - an arbitrarily assigned limit as I discovered. (It had been presented as having only a minimum limit. Who knew there was also a maximum word count for an essay)? As it turned out, the minimum was also the maximum, seven hundred fifty words, period! Of course, being me, I did argue the point. I said there had to be some allowance given. No one could write something that long and have it come out with an exact word count.

Still smiling, my teacher agreed. Normally, he said, he did allow a certain amount of leeway. But, he then added, that leeway didn’t extend to more than double the minimum word count requirement. Yeah, apparently, I’d gotten a little carried away with my fifteen hundred plus words. (But hey, I’d always wanted to be a writer - that was just practice). Evidently, back then I had a tendency to talk, or write, too much. Still do, as my wife would be quick to tell you. But, I have an excuse. I have all these pictures in my mind and as I understand it, each one is worth a thousand words, so...

Okay, in all fairness to my teacher, I know why he marked me down for my excessive writing on the essay; at least I think I do. And it has nothing to do with pictures. I’m pretty sure it was his way of telling me that I needed to learn how to edit; to cut the unnecessary words, phrases and sentences, or even delete entire paragraphs at times; to eliminate the excess, re-write and condense. As you can see, I still haven’t quite mastered that.

For anyone who may be wondering, yes, I am aware that the phrase in question was not meant to be a literal equivalency, but is simply poetic prose. It’s a unique way of saying that rather than to try telling someone something, especially something totally unfamiliar to them, it’s far easier to convey the message with a picture. But, is that picture really worth a thousand words? Who knows? Depends on the picture - and the words, I suppose. Obviously, the more vivid the details of the picture, the more words it would then take to describe it.

In light of the theme of this post, I considered including a photo, either of my school or perhaps of me writing. However, I decided against it since I really didn’t have one that seemed appropriate. All the photographs of my school were not exactly spectacular - hardly worth a dozen words at best. And as far as I know, there are no pictures to be found of me writing. Sure, I could have taken one, but I’m a little older now than I was at the time of this story. That would have looked a bit odd.

But, if a picture truly is worth a thousand words - well, this post contains exactly one thousand words. Feel free to draw your own picture! (Right after you’re done counting the words to see if I’m right, of course! And in case you do, the blurb below is not included.)

Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and more than a dozen books. Over My Dead Body, The Journey, and Miscarriage Of Justice, his latest books, are available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords. For more information, visit See Bruce’s Amazon Author Page at or view his Smashwords Profile at

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