Yeah, yeah — but who’s flying the plane?


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If you agree with a nut, does that make you a nut? Episode Script So, I’ve been teaching a class on writing. It’s called good words (right order) and it’s designed to help professionals with their writing. It’s not really about grammar, it’s what one might writing. It’s certainly not fiction, just that good clean, clear expository writing that they don’t seem to teach anymore and everyone feels the lack of when they get an email. The pilot class was pretty successful – actually, transformative for a few people, if I can use the language of coaching professionals. And it was a lot fun for me. There are two parts to what I teach. It’s one part, how the language works and one part how you work when you write. What it’s actually like to crank out words efficiently underdeadline. This involves some insight into the process of ideation, a rough writing process, and some thoughts on the proper work ethic for creative work. (I’ve podcasted a little bit about these things in Lather, Rinse, Repeat) I suspect that there would be some value in this for other people, but it was surprised at how much of a difference it made. I mean really it’s not exotic, it’s how I earn a living. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been shocked, that’s all the stuff that makes me fast and removes my anxiety about writing. When I’m stuck – at least with advertising/expository writing – I can reassure myself becauseI know what to do. I know when to gather more info – I know when the most productive thing to do is to put it down for a while. The other part of the class is giving people a sense of the language. Teaching them a different way to think about words. To interrogate sentences and paragraphs. That’s where the name comes from. Good words – words of clear, unambigous meaning – and right order- which is a simpler way to explain all that stuff about misplaced modifiers and passive voice. And one of the things we did a lot of is to take a sentence and ask, okay, what does this lump of words trying to tell us? What does this phrase mean, what does this word mean. Is it any good? Is it redundant? Can we get along without it? This is an excellent, and perhaps the only, way to improve your writing. By asking these questions, over and over again you develop your sense of the language and your writing becomes powerful and efficient. And I’m going to play you an example of this. And I must tell you, I believe in my heart of hearts that this guy is right. He’s also deeply crazy. That was an actual voicemail message from the San Francisco Chronicle’s correction line. And once again, the guy is right. He’s absolutely right. Pilotless drone is stupid. But it’s no reason to shoulder your shield, the one with the Rampant Shwah emblazoned on field of crimson and go to war. No no no. The guy who made that call is off the deep end. And there’s probably no bringing him back to the warm mass of convivial, easy-going humanity that I like to pal around with. So I guess the best thing to do is laugh at him. Or ask him, “Yeah, yeah, I understand all that, but who’s flying the plane.” DRONE DRONE DRONE. Ah, the hell with it.

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