I love to write. Whenever I have time, which hasn’t been often lately, I write about customer service, sports, and other stuff I think I know a little bit about.
Back in high school, I was one of only a handful of males, who scored high in verbal and low in math on my SATs. I don’t remember my exact scores but there was a significant spread between the two. I just thought it was because I stunk at math; not that I had any special verbal talents.
During my senior year in high school, Mr. Bianco was my English teacher. (Do they still call it English?) He had high standards and, what must’ve been, a closet full of red marking pens. He was meticulous when reviewing our work. I’m sure he suffered from writers cramp after grading papers. I got more than my share of that red ink. To this day, I hate typos, misspellings, bad grammar, and poor punctuation, thanks to Mr. Bianco.
During and post college, I rarely wrote unless I had to for a course or an occasional thank you note to my grandmother. Writing for pleasure was never part of the equation. It’s hard for an ADD serial extravert with the attention span of a gnat to sit down, let alone write something compelling.
As I pursued a career in marketing, writing became more important. My writing was good enough to get me by, but I never took the time to hone what skill I had. There were too many other activities to occupy my time. You know, the usual… parties, watching Happy Days, hanging with my pals, playing hoops, going to the shore, smokin cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo. Eventually marriage, kids, career, resulting in the perpetual excuse, “I don’t have time”.
About midway through my career, I worked for a guy who didn’t understand the concept of “constructive criticism”. Oh, he had the latter c-word down, but the former – not so much.
I’ve never been a fan of the annual review. This boss wanted your version first so he always started the review with this insidious question: “What would you say about your performance over the past year?” I knew this was his game and went in prepared to answer the question. I thought I did good. When I concluded, he gave me his perception of my performance invalidating 50% of what I said.
At the end of the session, I realized I’d forgotten to mention what I believed to be my biggest strength – my writing skills. In hindsight, I should’ve quit while I was ahead. I didn’t realize I’d opened a can of worms. He responded –That’s interesting. I don’t think you are a very good business writer at all. He continued your writing is too wordy, your key points get lost in the fluff. You can literally say the same thing with half the words. His direct feedback stunned me.
Before I had a chance to recover, he did share a valuable nugget. After you’ve finished writing go back and eliminate the words that aren’t necessary to make your point. It’s like cleaning out the garage, “When in doubt throw it out’”. My business writing improved, so taking the gut punch was worth it.
Social media has fueled my passion for writing. For a while, when I was between jobs I was posting a couple times a month and a handful of people were reading my stuff. I’d get some likes and a couple of comments which made it worthwhile. Early this year, I stopped posting and didn’t think anyone would notice.
I’m fond of Facebook for a variety of reasons. Politics aside, there is no better way to stay in touch with friends and family. I’ve always been a sort of sappy sentimentalist. When people reply to my comments, I reply to theirs as often as I can, and sometimes results in a relationship renewed virtually. One friend was reading my blogs more often than I realized. We had been responding to each other’s posts for a couple years. Recently, our comments and likes have become more frequent.
A couple weeks ago she reached out to me and asked me if I was still writing. I messaged her back letting her know I haven’t been and provided the age-old excuse regarding my lack of time. Her response was short but sweet. “Do it. You’re Good”. That’s all I needed. I’m grateful to my friend for the encouragement. Hopefully she’ll read this and realize it is a long winded thank you note.
A final point… I don’t know if it’s moral decay, political unrest, or the biased media (on both sides). Whatever the reason, our society seems to have forgotten the power of a few kind words. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all took a few seconds each day to encourage a handful of people with a few kind words?