Sunday, July 29, 2007

On Being a Professional

Introducing the GNB Essay Series

I -- and perhaps my colleagues -- will be publishing essays periodically. Some long, some like the one below are shorter than this intro.

These essays aren't our normal format or topic. We know we're a political blog primarily and appreciate your patience as we find our voice, the one which is the Group News Blog, not The News Blog. Primarily politics but some other stuff, reflecting who we are as individual writers and also who we are as publishers. We're not quite certain what that means either. That's what I mean by finding our own voice.

Essays start somewhere, meander here and there, make some points along the way and then end. Paul Graham gets much of it correct. Hopefully their truthiness is clear by the end of the essay. I don't even especially write essays for you; I write them for me.

Essays are a tool I've used most of my life to reflect. The understanding in my head is almost never the understanding I have after speaking with others. After writing on an issue, especially after rewriting at least four to five times (which is the essential part) my understanding is always sharper and my commitment to act has often changed radically.

The key is public commitment. The act of commitment happens in the in-between. Not here in my head, not there in your head. Commitment happens between the two or more of us in what I'm calling the "in-between". When I say, "I am for bringing the troops home now!", I take a stand in public for which others may hold me to account.

(Bringing the troops home now is my stand. Stands in one's head are fantasy. Stands in public are pure declaration, true the moment you speak them aloud or hit the "Publish Post" button.)

Speaking in public, writing in public, The act of. In short, essays or speaking in public allows me to develop the essential me. Many times I'm surprised by who I am; I had no idea! Yet there I am, written down on the page. I have to hurry to post my Self so as not to be afraid to publicly commit to live up to my Self, following General Stonewall Jackson's advice, "Never take counsel of your fears."

My upcoming piece which started out as an article about doping in sports and now has become something more, Should You Lie? About Trust, is part of GNBs essay series.

Now you have a sense of where I'm going with these essays. Hopefully you'll find the essays useful, informative, fun and interesting, as well as readable and worthy of your discussion and comments, even it it takes a while for the series to catch on. Try talking to the essay or reading it several times; see what conversations, automatic reactions and questions it provokes. Does it leave you engaged? In the best sense of the word I'm attempting to bring back the art of the essay. Here now, the first (very brief) essay. Enjoy.

On Being a Professional

LowerManhattanite, what a great post this morning from the GNB Sports Desk. Thank you so much for your writing. Not simply how well you write but how on point you are. I love working with true professionals. Professionals understand how to build up a brand, how to watch each other's backs, how one bit of business feeds other bits. The have... timing, not to mention, er, never mind. But also pros got rhythm and can build a sequence. Plus they've got something to say and are not Ira from Maspeth calling in from his mom's basement. A pro speaks as one with authority. They've been there and done that; they're not some guy in a diner. They know how to give and take notes without bullshit, nor do they put up with bullshit from incompetence without necessity. Professionals can be easy to work with because the best of them care deeply about each other and their craft. They think historically: think Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Meryl Streep, gloriously wonderful to work with (so I've heard.) Or pros can be challenging: think Langston Hughes (although obviously he also thought historically.) Hmm. There's a thought. Do the true virtuoso's all dwell historically inside their discipline? I've never met one who didn't. Real pros know the history of their field and how the history of related fields intersect. People, events, inventions and intentions, the whole schmear. As for being easy to work with, either way and most of all, one's level of performance rises up to meet the true professionals, never the other way around. Working with you LM is like that: I simply get better. What joy! The best part of working with professionals? They know when the gig is up and stop.