Creative vs. “Creative”

Here’s the thing….I write (almost) all day, (almost) every day.  How much of my writing is creative?  I don’t really know. 

Here is what I write: policies, procedures, process documentation, manuals, etc.  Some of that is purely changing format because the text either can’t be changed or is actually pretty good.  Those days are good because I like being able to play with format in Word (plus I am pretty picky about how things look – that’s why God created Styles in Word people!).  Is that creative?  Somewhat.

People would argue that writing policies, procedures, etc. just can’t be creative in the sense that writing a novel, a poem, a play, or even a blog post is creative.  Why can’t it be?  Why should business documentation not be held to the same standard?  Sure, there’s no character development or point of view, but there is voice.  I try really hard to keep my voice out of the documents that I write and make them be in the voice of the person for whom I am writing.   I understand that the language in business documentation needs to be clear, concise, and have flow….but doesn’t all writing need to have the same things?

I caught myself today changing the following sentence: “[Company] is located on the banks of the Mississippi in a town that is home to approximately 20,000 people” to “[Company] is located in a community of approximately 20,000 people”.  A little part of me died when I changed that sentence.  (ok, not really, but it sounded good, right?)  Why did I change it?  I changed it because it didn’t fit the document.  Sure, it draws the reader a picture, but it’s not really necessary in the long run (plus, someone would have just taken it out later). 

So how am I creative?  I get to create words every day.  I take things that are difficult and make them easy to understand.  I take nothing and make something out of it.  I take the tiniest kernel of an idea and turn it into a manifesto of beauty.  Does that mean I don’t struggle with the “creative” part of my job?  Nope.  I struggle almost daily to breathe life into documents that may be called  dusty, dry, or boring.  Believe me, it’s not always easy…Those may be the days that I delete almost everything I write because I can’t find just the right word.

So if you see an otherwise serious document with the tiniest bit of “creative writing”, ask yourself if the writer just needed to liven a document…..either that or they wanted to see if you would catch it….

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Can You Help Me Get Better?

A few weeks ago, Jon Acuff posted about his experience rehearsing for the Quitter conference he had coming up (http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/who-likes-you-enough-to-help-you-get-better/).  In the post, he discussed how he asked someone to critique his presentation.  He discusses how someone providing you with honest feedback on how to improve your work product is better than the customary pat on the back.

Everyone likes to think they have done a great job on a project.  They want that pat on the back.  They don’t want to hear that something they have spent hours completing is flawed in anyway.  Feedback is tough.  But I think that by opening yourself up to receiving feedback in a constructive manner, and honestly soliciting quality feedback is a great way to improve.

I have a full-time job where I spend a lot of time writing.  It’s something that I love to do.  But I’ll be honest, as much as I love learning different things about my company – things that not a lot of other people learn about – sometimes the writing can be kind of dry.  So I try my best to find ways to take very intense, complicated topics and make them simpler.  I am able to do this because those I work for are patient and able to explain the topics in a way that I can glean information out of them for everyone else.  I also do a lot of research so that I can figure it out on my own.  But I’m not perfect, nor am I the expert.

Sometimes I get it wrong.  Words are tricky things.  It’s so easy to change the meaning of something by changing just a few words.  It’s easy to oversimplify something to the point that it doesn’t make any sense.  Some people who look at my work are really good about offering suggestions to improve the writing.  Others don’t provide any feedback – their silence is the tacit approval of what I have written for them.  I would much rather have someone read my writing and help me to understand how to make it better than to continue to produce work that is sub-par.

Writing this blog is a way for me to improve my writing.  So I am asking for your help.  As you read the postings on my blog, I ask that you provide feedback.  The posts all have ranking buttons at the bottom – feel free to use them.  All posts have a comment feature – feel free to leave feedback.  What do you like about my writing?  What don’t you write about my writing?