My boss’ boss (I think we’re just two levels of management removed now) spent half the day composing a long e-mail message containing a large number of questions. He sent it to my boss, who forwarded it to us. I read the 10 or so questions that pertain to me.
Then I took a walk. Walking to the bathroom and using the facilities always seems like a good idea before I start writing.
Then I sat down at the keyboard and typed up my answers. I was thoughtful and thorough, but I didn’t waste any time. I think it took me about 20 minutes to send the response.
Forty minutes later, my boss called my name. “Dave! Have you seen the e-mail–@%^& you type fast!”
And one of my other coworkers cut in, saying my response read pretty well too. “The difference between a stinker and a rose can be the answer to just a couple of questions,” he read aloud.
It’s not Hemingway and it certainly isn’t Longfellow, but it gets the point across in a way the audience will understand and without being vulgar enough for HR to take notice.
Having done six months covering criminal justice in mid-Missouri helped. I used to have to be able to write 300-600 words in 60 minutes, sometimes about something I’d never heard of until that morning.
But staying in practice helped more. I write every day. I don’t always write well, and what I write may not be worthwhile–I actually throw away a fair bit of what I write–but it’s practice.
So when duty calls at work, I can rise to the occasion when needed.