PROBLEM: The perils of perfectionism.



When writing, hold one thought: “What do I want to happen next?” Write it and hone the objective. Changing minds takes time to craft.

When your goal is clear, create an  opening sentence to catch your audience’s attention

When you have a hook, get the rest of what you want to say onto page or screen. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be ‘on message’. Get something down, then you can start the real work.

Not adding; deleting. Make as few words as possible work as hard as possible.

And keep editing until you reach the end; a question or a specific action to keep the conversation moving forward.

So with these guidelines, what would be useful for you now?

The Poetic Paragraph


Being a corporate speechwriter is a great way to learn about organizations, the personality of power and how to put across complex messages in an easy-to-hear, compelling way.

It also teaches the perils of perfectionism:

A European MD had arrived in the business just in time for the Year Start Kick-Off. The grapevine was quivering with talk of a radical  ‘change agenda’.

That was certainly clear at my  first, angst-ridden briefing with him; he wanted to set out his vision and make a strong initial impression. “We must turn a corner, which means we must do things differently.” He asked me to send a draft in three days.

I set to work with my notes, having in mind Churchill’s Fight them on the beaches and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

During the first day, the opening leadership sentence became an obsession; I wrote, re-wrote, re-wrote the re-writes, honed, polished and crafted. I spent 70 minutes on the positioning of a semi-colon.

By the third day I had a beautiful – almost poetic - opening paragraph, and less than two hours to write the rest…


A  short while after sending it all to his PA, she called me. Her boss had some changes. “Are they major?” I asked, my employment status hanging by a thread.

“Oh, I don’t think so. In fact, given the number of tick marks, I think he rather likes it. Except the first paragraph. He’s crossed that out. Twice.”

(See also Create-for-Many, Coach-for-One, and Counsel-for-One)


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