Thursday, September 10, 2009

Backhoe, shovel, broom

I work at a forensic engineering firm. Yes, it's a little like CSI, except that instead of dead bodies we investigate car accidents, fires, and property damage.

It's my job to proofread the reports that the engineers generate. I go through pages of technical writing regarding seat belt use, burn patterns, and electrical voltage. Some days it makes it hard to come home and be creative.

Today we were having a meeting and the subject of report writing came up. One of our engineers is having trouble writing his reports. He has mental blocks and can't write, (sound familiar to anyone). Anyway, another engineer suggested he just open a blank file and randomly write down all the facts of the case. He said that sometimes we get bogged down in trying to make it perfect the first time around, (sounds familiar again).

Then another engineer made a perfect analogy. He said it's like trying to remove a dirt pile with a broom, attempting to make every brush stroke even. Instead you need to use a backhoe and get rid of the majority of the dirt (write as much as you can not worrying about the mess). Then you can use a shovel to pick up the small chunks that the backhoe missed (the first editing process). After that you use a broom to clean up the little things and it may take you a more than one stroke. (edit after edit).

I thought it was a great analogy and had to share.

Here's hoping we all get to the point where we can put all the dirt in the dust bin.

15 comments:

Lazy Writer said...

Great analogy. It is so true. Right now I've got the little shovel out, and I'm hoping to get all the dirt, but we'll see.

lauraabest said...

That is a great analogy! Thanks for sharing

Natalie Bahm said...

I love a good analogy. I have the "revise as I go" problem sometimes. It really slows me down and I usually end up rewriting most of it when I'm finished anyway, so I don't think it saves me any work at the end. Still, sometimes I just can't help myself.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Your job sounds really interesting! I am really impressed that you wrote your book and worked. It was only when I stopped working (all but twice a month) that my creativity decided to take over.

And I always thought engineers were boring (even though I did...hehem...haunt the engineering building in college because they were cute.) But look at their wisdom!

I'm definitey creating a lot of dirt right now in my rough draft!

strugglingwriter said...

I think it would be cooler if forensic engineering meant creating evidence is engineering forensics.

Good analogy on writing. I think I need something bigger than a back hoe, though.

Patti said...

Susan: Sometimes it takes a few sweeps to get all the dirt. In the end we might have to bring out the vacuum.

Laura: I thought it was a good analogy when he said it and decided right away to steal it.

Patti said...

Natalie: It's hard not to sweep as we try to backhoe. I do it all the time as well. Sometimes it's not a bad thing to sweep the dirt that's gotten away back into the pile.

Jessie: I started working again two years ago and some days are extremely hard and yes I did follow my share of engineers around campus when I was younger.

SW: I agree sometimes we need a excavator.

candicekennington said...

Great analogy. I just joined Renee at midnightmeditations.blogspot.com in her anti-perfection month. She and I both struggle with trying to make our writing perfect the first time. It's often counter-productive.

candicekennington said...

Great analogy. I just joined Renee at midnightmeditations.blogspot.com in her anti-perfection month. She and I both struggle with trying to make our writing perfect the first time. It's often counter-productive.

Patti said...

Candice: I think I might go over and join that group as I struggle with that as well.

Amber Lynae said...

I completely love this.

Patti said...

Amber: I thought it was a great analogy when I heard it. Even an engineer has good ideas sometimes.

Jody Hedlund said...

That was an excellent analogy! Wow and coming from an engineer! :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love getting the chance to meet other writers! I've learned that we really need each other's support and encouragement! And is that your home--in Iceland? If it is, I'm absolutely amazed!!

Patti said...

Jody: I totally agree, reading other people's blog and getting encouragement has been extremely helpful to me as a writer.

notenoughwords said...

That is a really great analogy!