Don’t be afraid! The Times has a fascinating look at what people are reading on their website–long, thoughtful, complex pieces. Just what you (well I) would hope for. It runs counter to what many of us (well at least me) have been thinking, repeating, practicing.

So feel free, write long, be complex, use four dollar word, adjectives and more adjectives. And next time someone whines in a meeting, “It’s too long! No one will read that!” tell them they’re wrong. Respectfully of course.


Where should you start writing? Some people start at the beginning. Me? Often in the middle, though sometimes what I think of as the middle ends up as the beginning.

At one point I was writing some TV scripts and while talking about them to one of my mentors, mentioned that it seemed like it really got going in episode four. Her response was, “Well why don’t you start there?”

She was right. Not to say that those first three episodes weren’t important–they were where I discovered and built the characters–but it infinitely improved it to dive in at the high point.


In one of the New Yorker’s reminiscences of J.D. Salinger this week, they point out what an extraordinary listener he was. My mom is the same way–she can recount a conversation she had a week, a month, a year, a decade ago with astounding detail. I didn’t inherit this skill unfortunately. For me, I have to consciously stop, focus, and ideally make notes.

Difficult though it is, it’s worth it. In every phase of the development process, it is so important to stop talking and start listening. For instance, what happens in the morning when the mail is being opened? Each check that arrives often is a great window on the collective knowledge of the staff. If you listen carefully you can often find out a complete giving history for that donor, when the last check arrived, who should write the thank you.

Questions don’t count as talking. Ask tons of questions and find out what is important to the people you serve, your donors, your boss, your staff, your colleagues. The answers you get will make every next step easier.