Before launching this blog, I sent the link to a client, John Homs, and asked him what he thought. His office called to say John was out, but he wanted to chat online. I got on iChat and saw John’s robot-head icon with a green “available” dot.
I typed, “Where are you? And how do you like my blog?”
His typing bubble appeared. Pop! “Bogota, Colombia”
Wow, being a hemisphere away didn’t deter John from helping me. Was he a great client or was he a great client?
Pop! “Writing hit me wrong. I found it tiring and self-conscious.”
Or semi-great in John’s case, to be perfectly frank.
I typed, “The entire blog?” barely restraining my left pinky from a string of girly exclamation marks.
Pop! “First post. You’re much funnier, much more sophisticated than that.”
Semi-great, yes, but John does have his moments of sheer greatness.
I dragged the draft of an alternative post into the chat window. John liked it; I decided to go with it. But would another pair of eyes lend confirmation? I asked my wife Maria to read the draft.
A quick aside on a long-held theory of mine: When someone asks for advice, then disagrees with it, what the advisee actually wanted was confirmation of an opinion already reached. I return to my story.
Maria said, “I like it, but it’s a little slow in that second paragraph.”
I said, “I worked on that paragraph a lot, and I think it reads pretty quickly,” with a slight inflection of some kind.
“You asked me for my opinion—and I told it to you.”
She had. She had. But I was struck by the value of something else: We’d just proven my advice giving-and-receiving theory—and emphatically, at that.
Could Maria’s take be corroborated? Could mine? I asked the recent college grad to read it. When Anna looked up, I told her, in a neutral tone so as not to prejudice her response, what her mother had said. (Also, Maria may have been sitting there at the moment.)
“I liked that paragraph,” Anna said.
Then she added, “But it does go on about half as long as it should.”
Correction, partial vindication for me (maybe), and for Maria, vindication in the 100-percent range. But after tweaking that paragraph, the debut post would be good to go.
Anna said, “I have some other comments, if you’d care to hear them.”
Huh, she wasn’t finished. “Sure,” I said, in the (perhaps begrudging) spirit of collaboration.
Anna suggested tightening cuts, with such illuminating comments as, “This is too cute!” and “What’s that supposed to mean because I don’t get it?” and “The armpit joke isn’t working.”
What was the joke about? Not much, which is why it wasn’t working. I mean, obviously.
I had two takeaways from this post-writing experience—continue to ask others to read my writing, and when they give advice bite my tongue—and one realization: I had no idea I lived in a household of keen editorial insight.