Form and Substance, and Working with Brilliance
Form and substance. It’s an idea I got from Joan O., whom I worked with early in my career. Writing should make sense, but most importantly, the presentation should be topnotch. Especially in public relations, where first impressions count, form matters greatly. You want to get people’s attention, but the idea has to have something more to it than just attraction.
At work now, I sometimes wonder—am I too demanding to ask for both form and substance? And more importantly, is it too much to ask people to have the initiative to strive toward form and substance? Does one have to give instructions to resize images so they fit on a screen? Is one too myopic not to notice that the font is too thin, too small—an eyesore? Again, is it too much to ask of a developer, a designer, a creative director to have a little more initiative, improve a little here and there, to take my suggestions and improve on it? Does one have to go by the letter? Is it too much to ask of a designer to look at the work from a reader’s point of view, from someone who knows nothing about typography or treading?
It is during times like this that I miss Sam, my American boss from a trade journal I worked with. Having done manuscript editing before I joined the magazine, I understood that every change was meant to improve a piece and was not a judgment of my capability as a writer. Certainly, there were times when we argued, times when I felt I had made the right judgment, but ultimately I took criticism and suggestions with the knowledge that these were meant to improve my craft and to come up with better copy.
These are times when I also miss good old N, my former significant other, a kick-ass designer whom I worked with briefly. His creations never failed to impress. He had a bunch of ideas, and he would constantly run them by me during our alone times. SEO. Design. Usability. These were things I learned even before I actually read about them.
I miss working with someone brilliant. While I surely am learning a lot of things from what I do now, a big chunk of it is my own doing. But don’t you just miss having brilliant people who never fail to make you think every single hour? I am glad there’s J, who keeps me sane, and whose reading preferences run parallel to the NYT best-sellers list. He lent me Freakonomics some months ago, and I haven’t returned it yet because I keep on reading it over and over, digesting the wisdom.
I just miss brilliant interaction, that’s all. I miss fellow writers and editors who send me well-written articles they’ve read about on NYT, Salon, NYMag. I miss Kace and how we laughed so much over Cary Tennis.
I miss a great mind fuck.