It's raining in downtown L.A., and I'm taking advantage of my ability to work from home as I write another draft of the 10-year institute review I've been entrenched in for the last three weeks. For two of those weeks, my usual boss was out of town. But he came back a few days ago and really slowed my progress. Because? Well, because he didn't let me get away with the bad writing I had been doing while he was away, of course.
I was tasked to help with the review because the office was racing to meet a deadline--a deadline that passed over a month ago. I got caught up in panic mode and was rushing to throw in whatever material I could that might be helpful. I had a ton of questions, and I asked some of them, but no one had any answers for me because we were all in such a big hurry to get it done.
Then my boss comes back and says, "You and I aren't gong to do this unless we do it well."
Me: "But what about the deadline????????"
Boss: "This document is pointless unless we do it well."
We've spent the last few days going sentence by sentence, word by word, through this thing. It's painfully slow. And yet I'm feeling better about it than I ever have. And today, as I sit at home in a tank top and boxers, watching Kiki's Delivery Service, I'm excited to work on this next draft.
What's that thing they say? Haste makes garbage? :)
My new boss has a way of working that I hadn't ever encountered before, but I'm quickly getting addicted to it. He says it's based on his Talmudic studies. Basically, we read a sentence I've written, and we talk and talk about all of the implications that could be made from the words I chose. We talk about whether or not it says everything I intended to say. We go online to check definitions--even if we think we know what they are. It's extremely thorough, and when the product is done it feels really leakproof.
Last night we also had a discussion about the difference between writers and scientists, according to him. (I'm fortunate or unfortunate enough to fall into both camps.) But he said something that was really interesting to me. He said that writers tend to shape ideas in part after the words had been written. In a sense, the words we've used limit the ideas we were originally trying to convey. That was definitely my experience, especially with my novella Bread. When scientists write, on the other hand, they are working to express things they've done. They need to explain experiments and results. So, they can't let the words limit them in the same way. My boss said it's an interesting difference because sometimes it makes the writing clunky, but it's more accurate. There's some truth to that for us creative writers, isn't there? Do we sacrifice our truth, what we originally set out to write, for a close approximation that perhaps flows better? I have for sure.