Write and Wrong
I like to think of myself as an okay writer. I have a great appreciation for our language and know deep down that the right word will always come to me. I tend to write with a cadence and often take a lot of creative license to make a point.
In my business, the creative writing called copy must be targeted to the ultimate audience but also appeal to the person that has to approve what is written – hopefully there is synergy in their taste and viewpoints. Last week I had to prepare a very short, two paragraph piece that was to be slotted into the body of a much bigger document, which is being written by various other people. Since I only had a little to write, I spent extra time agonizing over every word and really tried to craft the most perfect two paragraphs I could. I then shared it with some colleagues and with some fine tuning it was ready to go to our client.
I assumed I would receive a quick and positive response to my eloquent effort but none came. I left a couple of messages asking for comments or some type of reaction but then I just figured that I would know soon enough. Five days later the client call finally came and I thought I would hear “hey this is great, let’s go with it.” Not.
“This is the worst copy I have ever read and cannot believe that I’m expected to use this. It is incoherent, sloppy, grammatically incorrect and just plain boring and unimaginative. Who wrote this, a monkey?…”
He went on for another minute or so with a slew of negative comments. I was unprepared and horrified. No one had ever called me a monkey, least wise in regards to my writing. Still he went on and on and on and on and I kept thinking alright already, I get it, the copy sucks – it was like a bad dream. I was slipping into a defensive, intellectually-induced coma, pondering various excuses and wondering how I would ever get through this ordeal when he abruptly stopped talking.
There was an open and somewhat deathly quiet pause that seemed to last about three hours. All the while my thoughts were swirling and I knew that eventually I would have to say something. I stood up from my desk with phone firmly in hand and said: “I’m the author, tell me what you want me to do.” He said:
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not talking about your writing. Did you think I was talking about your copy? I’m talking about this other crap that they are putting into this program – I haven’t even looked at what you sent…”
I sat back down.
The next day we discussed the copy we had sent over and he had some good comments and with a couple of minor tweaks it was good to go to the final review committee. In that committee review meeting I sat and witnessed the very moment that those two brilliantly crafted paragraphs were matter-of-factly edited out altogether.
The moral of the story is that sometimes things don’t go the way you think they should. And too that things happen for a good reason but I can’t think of one right now. Meanwhile I have a couple of great paragraphs looking for a new home – like new, only read twice – monkeys need not apply.
From the Book of Szen
First published September 2006