26: Quality control.

- April 23, 2017 -

There’s a bright yellow sticky note I keep pinned to the top of my screen, a signpost of sorts for whenever I find myself struggling with a piece of writing. It contains only five words: “What do you really think?”

(It’s a tip I picked up from Margaret Sullivan, a journalist at the Washington Post.)

You see, there’s something incredibly liberating about that little piece of paper. It somehow manages to simultaneously act as a gentle nudge and a powerful jab, bringing me back into a mindset where I’m more fully aware of the necessity of being genuine, of not holding back.

It works as both a prompt and a measure of quality control: it sets my writing in motion, but it also helps to ensure that the work I do meets a certain standard. It reminds me that I don’t want my writing to fall under the umbrella of empty, surface-level interaction, to meet only the minimum requirements for the exchange of information, and that, really, there’s only one way for me to avoid this.

In other words, it challenges me to write from a more honest place, to get directly to the heart of what it is that I’m trying to convey. And, lately, I’ve been finding it helpful to apply this same type of quality-control thinking to other aspects of my life, too.

. . .

I’ve noticed, for instance, that asking myself what I really think — or how I really feel, or what I really want — in any given situation serves as a simple reminder to be more open, more caring with the people I cross paths with.

It encourages me to go beyond the limited expectations of, say, a How are you? by responding not with a one- or two-word answer (“Good, you?”), but with a thoughtful reflection on my life and a sincere invitation to learn more about theirs. It pushes me to speak up, to say what I mean, to have preferences and to honour them, to not confine my experiences to the constraints of established practice.

More than that, though, it helps me to remember that, if what I’m seeking is to have more of these types of exchanges, to have more genuine, more heartfelt interactions with others, the least I can do is lead by example.


Waving from my desk,
– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.