This evening I attended the Manitoba Editors’ Association workshop entitled “Get to the Point”, where the organizer Adrianne W. led us through a fun and informative series of exercises in concise writing. The first exercise took me into familiar territory: writing concise business communication. Adrianne shared the Top 10 Tips for editing business writing, and then we got out our pens and pencils and used them like machetes to chop away at some very wordy examples. My very favourite was this one:
On the afternoon of June 12 at the most recent meeting of the ad hoc committee on workplace communication policies, each and every member of the committee was in agreement with one another that first and foremost it is imperative that all forms of workplace communications be completely accurate and perfectly clear.
People in this organization are clearly frustrated by inaccurate and unclear communication, and who can blame them, if this is what their communication committee gives them? Ho boy.
Revision: The communications committee unanimously agreed at the June 12th meeting that all workplace communication should be clear and accurate. Unfortunately, we suck at that.
Okay, that’s not what I wrote, but it’s what everyone thought. 🙂
We moved on from there to Flash Fiction, apparently also known as postcard stories, and we were asked to choose from an array of pictures on a table and write something. I have virtually no experience in writing fiction, and, truth be told, almost as little interest. I am a great reader of fiction, but would rather leave the writing to others! So I snatched up a cartoon that appealed to me only because I saw in it a window into my own life. The cartoon depicts a messy kid’s room, and on close inspection, is likely that of a girl. But I have sons, so I framed my story accordingly.
We had 20 minutes to bleed onto the paper. I share my exsanguination below, because I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it flowed, and at how well it was received.
Thank you to the MEA for a really great event.
For the millionth time, I walk by the door of that room and my teeth clench. I cringe and writhe and agonize over what I did wrong to bring up such a slob. There’s probably stuff growing in there, waiting for its opportunity to crawl into his nose or lungs or under his skin. No wonder he can never find anything. I fight despair, and close the door.
Then something makes me pause. I open the door again, and dare to have another look. Suddenly everything looks different somehow. This is an active, living place, where an active, living boy has been catapulted into my world, for me to guide and direct but also from whom to learn. Where I saw mess, I suddenly see exploration. From the piles of disorder, possibilities emerge.
I am no longer angry. I am calm, and grateful. I remember that this amazing, living being that came out of me never has, and never will, belong to me. He is his own self, and he reminds me how to let go, because holding on too tightly would crush him. Everything in this room talks to me about him, because this is where all things happen for him: this is where he sleeps, dreams, reads, thinks, works and plays.
Maybe I can help him find the line between controlled chaos and unsanitary conditions. Maybe I can do this gently, and with a sense of humour. What I do know, is that I love him fiercely, and that is enough. I walk away, and leave the door open.