Monday, August 06, 2007

Another tip for writing (and working!)

Written communication is a tough boss. It demands that you think about everything you want to say and identify exactly one message or unifying thread to run throughout a single piece of writing. No matter how complicated the work, how much interesting background you have, or how busy you are, good writing is always "about" just one thing.

If you have several completely different things you need to address with a single correspondent, you have three choices: 1) pick one and avoid the others; 2) write several pieces of correspondence or 3) find a single thread that runs through all the different things and make that your central message.

What happens when you tell the story of your working day? If it is to be a story (or a memo or a report), there has to be one unifying message - one thread that ties everything together. This thread needs to be more than the "all the things that happen between one sleep and the next" if the writing is to be read and remembered. If you write the story of your working day, what is it "about?"

Now, pick the part of the day that seems to be the least "on message" in your description - the paragraph that a writing editor would simply cut from the story. Make a choice: was it a mistake to spend time on that particular problem or person? or can you dig a little harder and find the thread that draws it into your message? Once you accept that everything in one day is about one thing (the same thing), it's easier to recognize real connections and easier to let go of the problems, people and distractions that aren't really part of your work.

Try it.

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