I’ve written here (and elsewhere) before of how I’ve come to see blogging as my daily writing practice. I write for a living, and I need to get better and more efficient at it. Just as a musician might spend time playing scales, I spend time blogging.
Whether I’m getting better is hard to say. But I am definitely getting faster. Last week, my Fortune editor sent a note on Wednesday morning asking if I’d do an on-the-news piece based on Steven Cohen’s argument that he didn’t see the email at the center of the insider trading investigation because he only read 11% of his emails. My editor wanted to know: Is that typical?
I thought it would be a fun piece. There was just one problem. I was stuck at the doctor with my toddler, who’s fairly strongly cross-eyed. We’ve spent some serious time this summer figuring out exactly how that should be treated. Those of you who’ve gone through the fun of seeing specialists with your children — and getting second opinions! — know that such visits are not exactly swift.
Anyway, this particular visit wound up being a 4.5 hour ordeal from door to door. I’d sent an email to a source from the waiting room, and set up an interview at 1 p.m. I pulled in the door from our 9 a.m. appointment at 12:45 p.m. I quickly hunted down some other stats, then did my interview at 1. I got off the phone around 1:15, cranked out a 500-word piece and filed by 1:50 p.m. It was up on the site by 2:30.
It’s not my best work, but 35 minutes for a 500-word piece is fast. Years ago, I would have budgeted at least 90 minutes, if not more, to turn something from quotes and stats into a piece. I’m realizing I can definitely do multiple pieces a day if I try. Often I don’t want to try — particularly if I’ve spent 4.5 hours entertaining a toddler in a doctor’s waiting room with little more than the items in a diaper bag — but I could. That’s what blogging as practice has done.
How do you practice parts of your job?
Photo courtesy flickr user Vee-vee