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At the marina

August 16, 2014

Wow, has it really been nearly a month since I’ve posted? My apologies. I will try to reform. It’s happened because I’m doing a lot more writing at work, which makes me want to step away from the keyboard when I get home. But I miss this space and I miss the kind of writing I do here. Work writing is interesting in its own way, but aggravating too. I explain a lot of the writing I do like this:

When I was in sixth grade, we had an assignment to write out instructions for making a peanut butter sandwich. The goal was to teach us to be specific. On the day the assignments were due, our teacher brought in several jars of peanut butter and jelly an a whole lot of bread. She then had us read our instructions aloud and she followed them, taking care to do something ridiculous if the opportunity arose. You got to eat the sandwich made according your instructions at the end. Most people were handed sandwiches dripping jelly from the outside, bread shredded from being spread with the wrong end of the knife. One person got a plastic bag covered in peanut butter, as he’d neglected to mention the importance of removing the bread from its packaging. I was one of two people in the class who got a perfect sandwich. I’d thought it through. I’d put in such an insane amount of detail that people laughed as I read my recipe, but I’d left no margin for error. I’m not sure if this says good things about my character. But the sandwich was delicious.

There aren’t too many writing assignments I remember over the years, and this teacher was not a particularly inspiring one overall, but this was actually a pretty useful lesson to learn, and one I use nearly every day, probably to the annoyance of my coworkers. It’s essential in dealing with outside contractors, often based overseas, who don’t fully understand what we do. But it’s mentally exhausting to work this way.

This week’s assignments are different though. They’re more like term papers, requiring research and a more analytical bent. One is an assignment I get every summer, and deals with planning out the next year. The other happens much less frequently and requires me to analyze what we’ve done over the last five and me projections and recommendations for future long-term development. In another kind of job– say, manufacturing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — I might find this work tedious. But because what I do is intimately tied up with the things I love best, it’s a lot more like writing an academic paper on my field of specialty. And I’m finding my writing procedures to be similar. I’ve already written a complete draft that I tossed out the window altogether to start over with something completely different. I never seem to learn the lesson that if I start too early, I do twice as much work. It is my process and after this many decades, I fear I am stuck with it.

After a 14-hour day yesterday, I’d knocked off an acceptable draft of the annual document and made it about halfway through the other. It’s coming on vacation with me, alas. But I almost don’t mind. It’s an interesting thing to think about, at least to me. The first one was the bigger concern, as unlike previous years, instead of handing it off for my boss for approval, I’ve got to sign of on my own work (and that of a few others). And everyone knows what a hardass I am about deadlines.

But the first morning of vacation is sacred, so this is the only writing I’m doing today. There will, however, be a lot of laundry and packing and cleaning. Probably some swearing and arguing too. But tomorrow morning, we will be pointed toward the ocean, where I always find redemption.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2014 9:06 am

    I love the detailed and analytical look at actions. I do this all the time trying to teach children with disabilities how to do things. I have to take the process down to the essentials and figure out which step/s are the issue, then teach a round-about. People are amazed at how many steps are needed to pull up a pair of pants!

  2. August 16, 2014 12:30 pm

    Hooray for vacation!!!

  3. August 18, 2014 8:21 am

    It’s so much more difficult to sign off on your own work, instead of having anyone else take a look at it!
    Glad you’re getting a break from the unrelenting pace of your job.

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