A lot of the work I do these days is writing and rewriting texts that we’re to use in our bids. Limited by formatting and word restrictions – this means that I spend parts of my days reworking rough drafts of text to ‘fitting’ end-versions that are supposed to convince our clients to definitely choose our offers as winners.
And reworking text is a tough affair. When you’re limited to a certain number of pages or words – you find yourself shuffling and reshuffling, deleting and reformulating sentences you’ve looped through a 100 times before in the span of a couple of hours. I thoroughly enjoy this type of work, I’ve found (even though it does melt my brain at times) – optimizing texts to fit within the strict borders that we’re working with is definitely my thing.
One thing, however, that took a lot of getting used to: Reviews.
Before I started here I always worked in ‘simpler’ settings. Get an order or goal and deliver something at a certain point in time. Get judged on that endresult. Start and finish, no stops inbetween.
Now – I find myself delivering ‘inbetween and imperfect’ products for review by peers, that then provide their insights on both content and aesthetics. (SO HARD – giving someone something that you knows ‘isn’t done’ and asking them for honest feedback).
A review session is not an easy thing to undergo for someone that tends to take any criticism as a personal attack, as I’ve mentioned before. But after 8 months of going through these grueling review moments – I can honestly say that I’ve started to see a value to them that I’d never before considered. And one that translates very well to day to day life, outside of writing, as well, come to think of it: These review(ers) bring in a fresh view.
What happens to your brain after working on the same piece of text for about three hours, scrapping, rearranging, rephrasing and spacing?
It takes that text in as a part of itself. As a familiar blanket. A realm explored. A world discovered. After intensively working on text – you get to a point where it just ‘is’ what it is to you. You can’t see it for anything else than what it is and making fundamental changes to it, or the content in it, becomes quite impossible. It becomes your baby. It becomes ‘full’. And inevitably: You get stuck.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you wrote down (or spoke) a word so many times in a row in a short amount of time that it lost all of its meaning? Where you look at the word on paper and don’t recognize it as such anymore. The letters start to look wrong. Unfamiliar. Your brain no longer wishes to compute it as that familiar word. Nothing has changed, the word is the same as it’s always been, yet somehow it now causes fuses to pop in the brain that read it too many times. Strange, but that happens to me a lot now.
There’s no way I could finish my work with the quality that I’m delivering now – without reviews. At these intervals where other people, often with no real knowledge of the context or the choices behind certain wordings or topics, look at these texts and provide their opinions – is where I can breathe new life into my text and rejuice my inspiration. The simple act of having to explain my thought process and the choices it leads to, and having people challenge me on them and add their own flavor elevates the end-result to increasingly awesome levels.
Where I used to think that any comment was a beatdown on my quality – I have started seeing them as doors to new potential. Not all of them valid, not all of them doors I want to walk through, but all of them open to a world of new possibilities that I can choose to explore (or ignore). And that’s awesome.
You don’t need to know everything about something (or someone) to be able to look at the whole and point out the flaws. And this goes for simple text and something as complex as an entire human being.
People will look at my end-text, that I think is perfectly correct in regards to spelling and grammar – and find spelling errors in words I’ve read 20 times without being able to register them anymore. Serious errors, like missing letters or -dt errors (it’s a verb thing in Dutch that’s pretty deadly – similar to your/you’re errors). Errors I surely would not have found anymore, even if I’d reread it 20 more times. They just become invisible because they ‘belong’ to the whole of a text that my brain has registered as ‘complete’. That’s just how things go when you become too used to them. Tunnel vision sets in and you can no longer find the ways to do better by yourself.
This is why it can be so very valuable to share yourself and your struggles with others, as well, I’m discovering.
When you develop habits that you can’t seem to get rid of, or get stuck in downwards spirals that appear to have to stairs back to the top or even when you just feel like your not moving when all you want to do is step forward – it can be this fresh view from an unassuming mind that can find the hooks in your behavior that can be pulled on to unravel any knots you’re tangled up in. A well-placed question or a confronting suggestion can light a fire in places that seemed so dark that they seemed to be forever devoid of a brighter future.
These people, these views – they don’t have to be groundbreaking, or meant as life-changers. They don’t need to be revolutionary or intensely complex. It doesn’t take much to break your tunnel vision, because oftentimes it turns out that this unending tunnel we’re thinking we’re in – is just a paper toiletroll we’re pressing to our own eyes. Something we’ve created, that we’re keeping intact, but that in no way is a representation of the entire world existing around us. All we need is to get that perfect review to open our eyes to all that potential.
And just like I’ve been getting much better at accepting the review comments from my colleagues, and utilizing them to better my work…I find myself opening myself up more and more to people around me that try to open my eyes to new ways to conduct myself. Because we’re all, whether we realize it or not, always in need of a fresh view.