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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Necessity of Redundancy

The other day, I glanced left while stopped at a red light. The lane to my left was actually a u-turn to get back onto a major highway. Through the turn were several arrow signs pointing in the appropriate direction of the turn. Not one sign, or even two, but several. I noticed the rest of the day that almost every time I went into a sharp turn on a roadway, the side of the road would be peppered with directional arrows. I asked myself: isn't one enough? I saw the first one. The first warning. I see the bend in the road. If you calculated the cost of all the extra directional arrows in Lancaster County (which is full of twisty roads), it would be high. In this era of unnecessary government spending and ridiculously unbalanced budgets, wouldn't simple cuts like extra road signs make a difference?

In staring at the signs (yes, I'm a dork who ponders road signs), instead of government waste, I saw jobs. Someone designed that u-turn. Someone made those signs. Someone installed those signs. Someone made the equipment that was used to install those signs. Someone did the advertising and bidding for the company that received the contract to install those signs. Jobs. And for the cost of those couple of extra signs, money was poured back into our local economy through the workforce involved in creating them.

I also realized that the issue isn't the cost of the extra signs but the cost of lives because for some people, they are necessary. For most of us, redundancy and repetition aren't useless nagging, but required. If you only told your kids once to clean their rooms, would they? If you only reminded your husband once to grab a carton of milk on the way home, would he? If you only told your dog once to "go potty," would she? We remind our children daily to brush their teeth, do their homework, pick up their toys, say "please" and "thank you." We remind our husbands about teacher conferences, dental appointments, their mother's birthdays, and how much we love them. The redundancy isn't needless, tedious, or annoying (okay, maybe it's annoying). But without reminders and redundancy, life would be much less efficient, stressful, and even painful.

Writing entails much redundancy. In crafting a novel, you create draft over draft as you edit and rewrite. You read the same sentences over and over to discover their weaknesses, and their strengths. You examine and reconsider verbs to ensure they are succinct. Creating your best work requires review, rewrite, redundant reconsideration. Because as in life, once simply isn't enough.

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