Monday, November 08, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office

Two weeks ago, I was invited onto a "Red Team" to review and critique an important proposal my company is writing. While flattered, I was also a bit hesitant because I wasn't looking for additional work. Ten years ago I successfully extracted myself from all company business other than fun technical subjects. Yet, from some sense of duty, I agreed to participate on the Red Team.

That afternoon they plopped the document on me --all 70 pages of it-- and I settled in to read. I struggled right out of the gate, and eventually DNF'ed despite giving it a good three-hour effort. I know the authors knew their stuff, in fact, they are brilliant people, but it just wasn't coming out crisply in the text. Worse still, in the parts I could understand, they were substantially underselling their capabilities.

Turns out all the other Red Team members felt the same way, so we met with the proposal writers and told them bluntly what we thought. A bit of an awkward situation but handled deftly by the Red Team leader, my company's prez. By the end of the meeting I was feeling good about the prospects; the writers got the messages and seemed to genuinely appreciate our input. OK, back to my hole and my interesting technical work... or so I thought.

My curiosity piqued when I saw the prez go over and whisper into the VP's ear as we were wrapping up. "Mark, can you stick around a little longer?" Not so much a question as an order really. Turns out he unceremoniously threw me over the fence onto the proposal-writing team. Ookaaay... what horrible tasks are the proposal writers going to dump on me now, getting revenge for the comments I had made from the safety of the Red Team just a few moments earlier?

Well, of course they're bigger people than that, and they took me in warmly and gave me some plumb writing assignments. So I tap-tapped away on the keyboard over the next couple of days, writing and rewriting, and rewriting again. Eventually I had some pages I was proud of. Now it was their turn to critique! So yeah, they tweaked a few things and deleted some of my ramblings ...I do tend to ramble... but most of my contributions will be in the final version. That made me happy.

But the thing that really surprised me was this: I truly enjoyed the writing assignment. I mean really writing, with all the complexity and nuance of language. Trying to balance the often conflicting goals of being entertaining --or at least not boring-- while at the same time being informative. I am a cat-5 writer to be sure, but even a cat 5 can appreciate the process.

What occurred to me next was that before this little assignment, I hadn't strung together more than three or four paragraphs in a long time. Probably since abandoning this blog! The only writing I've been doing is the usual smattering of emails, phone texts, and Facebook comments. Hardly a way to stay in writing shape!

And so my final realization was, hey, I don't want my writing brain to get flabby, so maybe I'll start blogging again! Lots of fodder out there to consider. No promises that it will be any good, and no doubt you won't share the same excitement level that I do about some subjects. For example, do you get giddy like me when thinking about rain harvesting, and the two 650-gallon tanks I just bought? I thought not. So it's up to you... if you want to stick around, you can be on the Red Team.


Anonymous said...

It will be nice to have you back; always enjoy your good words.
choo choo

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks for the kind words, Chris. I'm looking forward to getting out on the rides more often, which always means good words for blogging!