Writing Your Best Work

A simple reply

A few nights ago, after work, I sat settled down to write an email to my manager. A short reply is all, though not necessarily quick.

Later, my spouse asks what I’m [casually] working on and I say, “that email I told you about . . . just a short response”.

“If it’s ‘just a short response’, then why are you still working on it?”

“Well, it just takes some time to make it a certain way, the way it should be before I send it on” I say, expecting to tap into the universal presumption of professional adequacy in perfection. He nods, knowing.

Then we delve into the conversation, the one that writers know:

To convey an idea or perception, with least opportunity for misunderstanding and error, it will often require more time than one initially thinks.

That’s the gist, almost verbatim to our exchange that night.

He knew it already, but is in the habit of tilting his head around to see what I’m working on and raising conversation.

It hardly matters what someone is writing. The truth is, the content of the message is usually—and should be—given a significantly longer term of thought than in speech. The length of this term is variable and could run well beyond what one might think. Writing is, after all, meant to expand understanding and enhance communication.

Humans have continually “altered and enriched writing to reflect their complicated needs and desires.”

There is a learned, perceivable point of no return in writing, where the writer had expected to be about done, but suddenly realizes the true task at hand and accepts it matter-of-factly.

Fast freewrites are primarily for our personal use, an exercise meant to develop the final result. Think of Twitter and texting communications: we don’t usually just spat out our final message. Typically, we start, backspace, think, start again—especially in the broadcasting sense.

Jessica Stillman, writing for Inc., shares in “The Brutal Truth […]:

The Brutal Truth You Must Accept to Write Well, According to Jeff Bezos | Inc.com

“When a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard,” Bezos explains. Instead, the problem is “a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more.

The Brutal Truth You Must Accept to Write Well, According to Jeff Bezos | Inc.com

True, there are those times and circumstances in which we all let our guards down, perhaps in a fit of [perceived] ‘truth’ or maybe just a moment of relaxation in which we feel free. Most times, though, it’s as they say: “A lot of time” is what a writer ultimately needs, to contribute their best work.


Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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