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Writing S-l-o-w-l-y: Tracking Your Train of Thought

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your decision making process. Reading time: 4:24

          Of course you can text and tweet with the best of them. You have the fastest thumbs on executive row and you relish every opportunity to prove your digital dexterity –at your fingertips and in cyberspace. Whoa!  Hold on there Thumb Dumb.

        How sweet would your tweets be if you could use only one thumb?

      What if you then you had to stop every five keystrokes?

       What if you then had to take a two second break–before continuing your tweet –five strokes on, two seconds off?  No way you say.

           Now let’s up the ante. What if you had to write a status report –or even a book– with that same texting limitation –one thumb, 3 key strokes on 2 seconds off? No way, you say.

Hold On There Thumb Dumb

          Yet slowing down your tweets and text just might speed up your transition to the executive suite . After all, tweets  and texts are anathema to the most effective leadership thinking. At least if you consider the writing process our forefathers used to write the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States. With a quill pen. An ink well. And the forced intermittency to dip one in the other. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

        How would your leadership decision-making change if  you were forced to tweet and text more slowly? 

        Would you think more strategically if you took more time to commit to paper (or a digital screen)? Would you become a more effective leader

Feathering Your Quill Thrill

Indeed the quill pen just might be a symbolic tool in your path to become a more effective decision making and a more thoughtful leader.

Quill Pens

       Take it from Pulitzer Prize winner James MacGregor Burns. His 1978 book– Leadership –is considered a classic in the leadership literature. He often wrote with a quill pen to insure more thinking time.

      Burns said he took his cue from the founders of America who all used quill pens that forced them to pause regularly, dip their quill into the ink, and then continue to write more thoughtfully.

       Shelby Foote also feathered  the thrill of the quill. The author of three volumes on the Civil War would write  500-600 words a day with a dip-pen.

       “You can only write 3-4 words before you have to dip the pen in the ink again, ” Foote said,  “I ‘m convinced that the most really bad writing in the world is seen under the influence of what’s called inspiration.”

      Inspirational writing takes time. That’s why former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz says the best writers write much more slowly than everyone else, and the better they are, the slower they write.

       For example, James Joyce wrote Ulysses –the greatest novel of the 20th century—at the rate of about 100 words a day. And T.S. Eliot, one of the greatest poets our country has ever produced, wrote about 150 pages of poetry over the course of his entire 25-year career. That’s half a page a month.

        Author and historian David McCullough, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner,   preferred writing on a typewriter primarily because it is slower than writing on a computer. McCullough says:

“I don’t want to go faster. I’d really like to go slower if anything.
I like the feeling of throwing that carriage and
hearing the bell ring like an old trolley.”

        Oh, I remember that bell ringing on my old Underwood typewriter every time you threw the carriage (and for those of you who have never even seen a typewriter let alone used one, you had to throw the carriage at every line.

       The sound of that bell would keep my train of thought more on track more so that the continuous and the monotonous humdrum clickety-clack of the keyboard that I am hearing right now as I write these words.

        No wonder thinking titans like David McCullough are so invigorated hearing  the sound of that trolley bell. You can almost hear Judy Garland’s famous voice in that 1944 movie Meet Me in Saint Louis singing so joyfully:

Clang, clang, clang” went the trolley
“Ding, ding, ding” went the bell
“Zing, zing, zing” went my heartstrings
For the moment I saw him I fell–

    Ding, ding, ding for whom does the the bell toll?  The bell tolls for all leaders who take the time to more effectively track their train of thought and take measures to never twitter away their leadership thinking.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Take your time tweeting and texting to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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