Inquiry and presentation

Tyler Cowen coined the phrase “quake books”. They are texts which significantly alter the worldview of the reader. Such books are more about the reader than the writer, however—their quakiness is determined in part by the content but more by the time and context at which the reader comes into contact with them. Personal “quakes” are a consequence of the right book finding the right reader at the right time and in the right environment. Cowen also observed that one reads less quake books as one gets older. That more quakes are experienced on the left hand side of the time axis. The more one ages, the less likely significant inner revolutions are.

The same can be said of businesses. Early on, whilst trying to become established, businesses are remade entirely, over and over again. But as they grow and become entrenched in certain markets the transformations they undergo become less frequent and less violent. Learning is a rapid and aggressive process in the early years and a slow plod later on.

Here is one such quake I recently experienced whilst trying to build my own business: Methods of inquiry are not the same as methods of presentation. Example: I have a map for the writing process that each person—including me—must go through. It looks like this:

the writing process22

I’ve mapped corresponding services to each stage. “Research and Ideation” is mapped to consulting. “Outlining” and “Drafting” is linked to an end-to-end writing service. “Macro-Editing” is connected to “Sparring” and “Micro-Editing” is tied to “Tune Ups”.

Sparring? Tune Ups? These names have multiple narrative hooks for me. The names resonate with meaning on multiple different levels, for me. But not for potential clients, as I’ve discovered. No, they have an easier time understanding more popular times. “Copyediting”, “feedback”, and so on. So I’ve had to adapt. Whilst I think “Sparring” I say “feedback”. Whilst I think “Tune Ups” I say “the process where I focus on the style of a piece, the nuts and bolts of writing.”

The terms I think in are not the terms I speak in. How I communicate is not how I think.