From “As Cubs Wander Into the Bronx, They’ve Never Been Worse,” in this morning’s Times:
… they last won a pennant in 1945, when the able-bodied men were still off at war.
(Apologies to my dear friend and dear Cubs fan Mark Caro.)
In which one of my favorite singers covers one of my favorite songwriters. Beautiful beyond description (or at least beyond my ability to describe). Peace to them both.
Regularly on this gradually-coming-back-to-life blog, weekly I hope, I’ll share the occasional sentence that thrills me. I’ll present them without comment; it’s for each reader to get what he or she gets out of those sentences without me imposing any interpretation. So …
I am my mother’s child and I am my mother’s child, I am my father’s child and I am my father’s child, and if that line is a little too much like Gertrude Stein, then I might be a little bit her child too.
– A.M. Homes, The Mistress’s Daughter
(Thanks to Jane for taking this book out of the library, reminding me how much I adore this sentence.)
Earlier this month, the family spent several days in Savannah, Georgia. I’d always associated Flannery O’Connor with Milledgeville, Georgia, the town she lived in as an adult. I’d forgotten that she grew up in Savannah and was pleasantly surprised when the proprietor of a used bookstore directed Eli and me to her childhood home. To celebrate her birthday, here are two bad snapshots I took in her home that speak to something about her.
Here’s a page from a book she read and wrote in as a child. Her annotation: “not a very good book.” Nicely captures her attitude.
And here’s what she saw outside of her parents’ bedroom window. That she started writing almost in the shadow of a steeple should come as no surprise.
Happy birthday, Mary Flannery!
Finally got around to reading Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, a straightforward, mostly serious consideration of his formative years. What struck me most, aside from the occasional hilarious deadpan observation, was how he described being aware of developing in his craft even when he wasn’t successful or even very good yet. But now that the book is done, I wonder whether Martin is accurately reporting what he felt about his process at the time — or if he’s making sense of his development in retrospect. When you’re in the middle of getting good at something, but not yet good at it, do you know how everything fits? Or can you only look back at that?
I’ve enjoyed my latest two-year stint running The Vineyard Group. Nearly all of my clients, large or small, established or startup, treated me to challenging and rewarding work — and each client’s needs have been sufficiently different so each day has delivered surprises. Earlier this year on this blog, I shared some lessons I learned from my client work (Make it new again, On providing editorial services to noneditorial professionals, Business casual: an editorial manifesto, and Editing as strategy — and why it’s not the same thing as editorial strategy) and I hope to share more here soon, although now I’ll be doing it from a different perch.
One of those clients has been the consultancy Collective Next. I became aware of the company from working alongside its founder and CEO, Matt Saiia, as a fellow curator for TEDxBoston. (This year’s event is next Tuesday. It’s long since sold out, but you can either watch the livestream or listen to it live on WBUR.) I found in Matt someone fun to argue and develop ideas with, and a good guy to stand next to at Gorillaz and Hey Ice Machine shows. Then I found out, one by one, that the company was stuffed with people who consistently (a) made me think harder and (b) cracked me up. Collective Next specializes in helping companies collaborate better, and even the briefest visit to Collective Next HQ would show you how they live what they teach. I’ll be doing a lot of different things for Collective Next: client work, developing new products and bringing them to market, and the usual publishing and editorial work.
One of the biggest things I miss from my last job is getting to work every day in a big, open room stuffed with creative, brilliant, challenging, hilarious, likeminded people. I think I have that again. Joining Collective Next has been like joining a gang — in a good way. The hazing has been limited (so far) to good-natured spreadsheet-hacking. I’m ready for a big long-term challenge and Collective Next seems like the ideal place for me to share what I know, learn from people with different skills and passions, grow, help other people grow, get into creative trouble, and fight our way out of it together. Onward!
I’m tightening the ideas and removing the crap from a presentation workshop I’m running on Monday. It would be bad, after all, to give a bad presentation about giving good presentations. While doing so, I realized I wasn’t emphasizing audience enough: understanding who you’re presenting to and what they need, focusing on their needs and not yours. Whenever I want to show clients the value of obsessing over what the audience wants and needs, I call in a great quote that you can find in Nancy Duarte‘s outstanding and welcoming HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. In her book, Duarte quotes Ken Haemer, presentation research manager at AT&T:
“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern.’”
Think about that the next time you’re in front of other people. Or the next time you’re writing or doing anything for other people.