Blogger’s Note: The whole idea behind these “Second Third” posts can be found here.
I had intended to do a short post this evening about acknowledging and embracing the fact that I am not a rationale/logical decision-maker, but instead am an emotional/gut-level guy. Had I gone with my original idea, this post would be just about over:
“I tend to make emotional decisions, but most of the time they turn out better than when I try to think through things methodically. This is true for everything from my days as a high-school athlete to test-taking, from interacting with family and choosing friends to hiring people (or choosing a job myself). In my Second Third, I need to acknowledge that as a strength and “go with my gut” more.
The end. (Not much of a post.)
However, near the end of the work day today, I experienced a prime example of why “going with the gut” can be problematic even if it tends to work…and why I tend to be apologetic about it. It involved a collaborator and dear friend of mine, who may well read this post, but to whom I will only refer as “my collaborator” or “she.” If she chooses to reveal herself, that is her choice!
Last week I worked on a draft of a document that will be public in the next couple weeks, but that requires sign-off from a number of people. It is generally easier to get that sign-off if the version you share with the various “powers-that-be” is as well-thought-out and polished as you can get it. Unfortunately, I am also an instinctive writer, so I can always use help ensuring a piece is, in fact, as well-thought-out as I feel it is. That’s where my collaborator quite often comes in.
Last week she suggested some very concrete changes to the opening of the document. I read her changes, then stewed on them a bit. I could see what she was doing, and I thought I understood why, but they didn’t feel right to me.
Late this afternoon I began revising the document based on feedback from my collaborator and another colleague. I was working from an old draft because I hadn’t figured out what to do with the opening yet, but I wasn’t planning to use my collaborator’s changes verbatim.
Just then, in she walked.
She could see what I was working on, and she could see it was the old version. She asked me if I was working from an old version. I said yes, and mumbled something about trying to incorporate other feedback. (Technically true.) We went back and forth a moment, and she left.
The truth is, in that moment I couldn’t tell her why I wasn’t using her changes. Not specifically. So I punted: a low, wobbly, short kick to boot. Embarrassing.
I worked on it. I reworked the beginning, trying to weave in the optimism and opportunity she had added, but in a way I thought suited the piece better. I could’ve sent it to the next level of review at that point, but it still wasn’t ready, and I knew it — I just didn’t know why.
I was running out of daylight and up against a deadline. This collaborator of mine is one-of-kind, a person whose perspective (both on work and life in general) has been invaluable over the past few years. So I took the new draft, with my revised beginning, to her.
As soon as she saw it, I could tell she didn’t like my opening. She started to ask me about it, and I started to cobble together an explanation of what I was trying to do. She asked what was wrong with her suggested changes, and I tried to cobble together an explanation of why I wasn’t sold her approach. Both bits of cobbling were poorly done; she explained what she didn’t like about my latest version, and ultimately I acknowledged that she was right: she had explained logically what I couldn’t put my finger on — the reason I hadn’t simply sent my version of the document up the chain of command already.
“But I’m still not sold on your wording,” I said.
We talked a bit more, not completely comfortably…and as is typical between the two of us, she said something that sparked an idea, a solution to the opening that bubbled up in both of us at almost the same moment. She voiced the idea and even jotted some notes, then I ran from the room to try to put it to words.
My collaborator read the rest of the document, then came to my office with only a few minor changes to the rest of it. I asked her to read the new opening, which I had just finished. She did.
“Yes!” she said.
“We got it!” I said.
We laughed a moment about our back-and-forth earlier.
“We don’t exactly meet in the middle,” I said. “It’s more like this…” and I spread my hands wide, then brought them up, up, and together, like an A-frame or a high peak.
She laughed. “We take it to a higher place…I like that!”
“And it’s uphill for both of us,” I added.
“And it’s harder if we’re carrying baggage,” she said.
She’s right, of course. She generally is. But the thing is, that’s how my mind works. I know if something feels right or wrong, and I like something or I don’t, well before I can explain why. It’s a weakness in some ways, because I can’t defend or explain myself very well in a collaborative working environment. It’s why I hate meetings in which people attempt to write by committee, and why I almost always volunteer to be the one to “consolidate the feedback” and revise a document.
In my Second Half, I need to figure out how to explain this as a strength. But how do you think my collaborator will respond if I don’t accept her changes and instead say, “They don’t seem right to me — I don’t why — I just know we can do better…”?
7 thoughts on “The Second Third, Week 8: Go With My Gut”
You need to win an award, so you can say, “Trust me. I”ve won awards for my writing.”
I'd give you one, but I don't think anyone would acknowledge my superior understanding and intellect on these matters. 🙂
I won a couple awards. Almost 15 years ago. Is there a statute of limitations?
Oh! I've got one in the last 10 years, too — too bad if it's for a different sort of writing! Thanks, Jinglebob!
That's like me saying, “I've killed before”…referencing a deer 20 years ago, right, JB?
I feel compelled to point out that the dream job for any collaborator is to have the privilege of working with a writer as gifted and talented as you are…and one who generously includes a collaborator in the joy of a finished product well done! It is an experience I will treasure always!
Patty…Patty…who are you again? 😛
You are both great pholosophers! That is an amazing talent. It's hard to find people like that in the world. Good on ya.
Thank you for the look into the whole re-re-re-writing process. That was cool.