Speed vs. Distance

When you know the kind of writer (or runner) you are, there are no limits to what you can do.

When you know the kind of writer (or runner) you are, there are no limits to what you can do.

When I first started running, I didn’t really understand the nuances of ability and training. Marathon or sprint, it all looked hard; it probably didn’t help that the pros could cover 26.2 miles at a per-mile pace that I couldn’t sustain from here to the corner. It took me years to realize that the people who were good at short bursts of speed were not the same people who were good at long distances. Chances are that if I got good at running a 5k, I wouldn’t be as good at a half marathon, and vice versa.

The same can be true of writing. At one of my in-house jobs, I worked with a team of writers.

One was fantastic for brainstorming project ideas and creating catchy headlines. She was the Don Draper of the department. But if I’d left her in charge of managing the project or setting deadlines for her own writing, I’d have a lot of 1/3-complete files and no finished projects.

Another wrote the blandest headlines and tended to stick to pre-existing templates. Her writing may not have had flash and pizazz, but it required minimal editing and was always completed ahead of schedule.

The first writer was a sprinter. The second was a marathoner.

Make no mistake: they were both exceedingly valuable. If I had the opportunity to hire a team again, a sprinter and marathoner make excellent partners, with each having skills that complement the other’s abilities. But different types of writing require a different focus, and it’s important to know where your skills lie before assuming that writing is writing.

Interestingly, over the years I’ve discovered that I’m a little bit of both. I can write long, intricate documents, meticulous sales training programs, or carefully crafted scripts. I can also create catchy summary documents, concise internal communications, or catchy announcements. But these skills rarely cross over on the same project. If I’m looking at it with one part of my brain, I need time and mental distance from the project before I can approach it from the other angle.

If only I had both skills as a runner!

What kind of writer are you?

previous article | back to blog index | next article