Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How I Learned that Writing Does Not Equal Genius

Last week I had a bit of reality regarding my incredible amazing genius self.

I work in corporate marketing communications and I am the only one in that position in my company. I came to the job with a background in technical writing and am typically the keeper of messaging and official company lines in the company, not to mention the one who write collateral. It is, after all, typically what marcom positions do.

So last week a colleague asked me to put together a brochure. He supplied the copy, which annoyed me. I should have come up with the copy, but whatever. Okay. I would edit instead. Sometimes that's what the role requires.

"I'd like to look at these features and benefits," I said.

The coworker eyed me, wary of my suave marcom words.

"Okay," he said. "But the copy is already approved."

This annoyed me, because I am the one who typically approves copy. I am, after all, a WRITER. I have a effing graduate degree in English!

So I went through the "features and benefits" and pointed out a few changes, which weren't anything big. Then I laid out the brochure and sent it to my coworker for review. He came back with several changes. Then several more. Then more. We went back and forth at least seven times. Then he called me.

"Sierra," he said. "There is yet another change. You must insert a comma after the two items in the last sentence. There should be another comma there."

"A serial comma, you mean," I said, doing my best to keep my voice sarcasm-free (and failing, of course). "Have you decided to start using them, then?"


"Right, I'll just put that in, and add them in everywhere else it needs them, too," I said.

Now at this point, you're probably thinking, what an arse Sierra is being, and you'd be right. I was being one. I was being pedantic and petty, because I felt insulted that my coworker, who is not even a native speaker of English, should point out grammatical issues. Even if he was the one who wrote it.

Then it hit me: just because I write novels does not make me a writing god.

Oh, I know. I know, right?

So I did what I could to adjust my attitude, and continued on with eighteen more rounds of nitpicky edits, because that's what was required to get the job done.

But yesterday I made sure I mentioned repeatedly how his home country lost a World Cup match last week. And he took it graciously, because he does not suffer from pretensions like I do did. And I was glad of the reminder and the lesson that just because I write stories, just because I write and complete novels, does not make me an automatic writing genius.

It's a reminder we probably all need once in a while. Oh fine, just me, then.


Lt. Cccyxx said...

I used to be a jerk and a half about the same stuff. One place I worked wanted me to stick two sentences after every period. I almost quit. I got into a fight with someone several levels above me in another organization about whether "impact" could be used as a verb.

When it comes to this stuff, I always have to remind myself to take a deep breath and count to ten. It's not that because I write novels I think I'm a writing god - it's that I know I'm a good writer and I don't like being criticized over not using the arbitrary stylistic quirks that certain organizations (or people) favor. I have to surrender my ego in enough other aspects of my job that, when it comes to writing, I like to be respected.

But the truth I eventually realized is that when I can take those deep breaths and get over myself for a minute, I usually learn something.

Simon C. Larter said...

Well, YOU'RE not a writing god, perhaps. Glad to see you're finally finding a sense of your own limitations. Can your capitulation to me be all that far behind? No. No, it can't.

(Also, you have a graduate degree in English? Huh.)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Oh, I never thought I was really a writing God-- I'm not smart enough for that -- but I think it's like the good Lt. says, I just didn't like being criticized over stuff I should already know. Stuff that should be a given.

My point here is, no one is perfect. No one churns out gold all the time. At least not me.

Nemesis, I am so far ahead of you that you can't even see my dust :)

Jamie Grey said...

*blushes* I had one of those moments last week when I snapped at my devoted boyfriend that he had no idea what it was like to write a novel since he'd never written anything but short stories. He was so hurt. I've vowed to never try to be a "genius writer again." I'm glad to see I'm not the only one!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Before I started blogging, I thought I could become god's gift to the literary world with very little real effort -- that a novel would just flow out of my fingers with no more than a little careless abandon.

hahahahahahahahaha. <-- that's me, now. Laughing loud and long at myself.

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