Some dude’s thoughts on editing and presentation

not-so-famous philosopher

One day, some six years ago, I discussed with a colleague how I felt I wasted two weeks of effort preparing for a brief 10-minute work-related presentation.  Although the presentation was largely successful as I managed to distill the explanation of a somewhat complicated topic down to the bare essentials, I just couldn’t shake the guilt of expending nearly the two preceding weeks crafting and revising just five Microsoft PowerPoint slides as backup material.

My colleague, however, wasn’t surprised and then statedhe once read, “It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time”.

According to various Internet searches, that quote is attributed to an 18th century American philosopher named Wayne Burgraff, though personally I can’t validate the existence of the gentleman.

Who knows, maybe the guy was just a quick-witted slouch caught loafing on the job?  Perhaps he spouted the statement as a last-ditch effort to save his job?  You never know what fallacies lay in the depths of the Internet.  In any event, I extend my sincere apologies for my naivety to those of you who may revere the philosophies of said Mr. Burgraff.

It wasn’t until this week that I remembered the discussion with my colleague.  It happened when I was in my second hour of editing the draft of a one-paragraph poem, judging myself for how much time I spent near midnight arranging and re-arranging just thirty words.

I then took a step back and thought to myself, Readers don’t care how much time it took you to write a story or poem.  They’re going to judge the final piece.  It’s going to take as long as it will take to get it right.  And I don’t mean grammatically correct… but right.  Edit until you’re happy with the result; there’s no magic formula.

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4 thoughts on “Some dude’s thoughts on editing and presentation

  1. Thank you for this! It’s not going to stop me from spending hours in front of my laptop, but it helps to know I am not alone.

  2. I over-think everything I do, and this makes my editing efforts a time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming chore. I suppose it is my way of doing it, but I’m always looking for more ways to improve the efficiency of it. No reader is going to care how long it took, sure, but I care. And a reader *will* care if I don’t take “enough” time on it… whatever “enough” means.

  3. Matt, I completely agree with you – you must get it perfect for it to be perfect and it just doesn’t matter how long it takes. It’s gonna leave a great impression on those who read your work or it’s gonna be forgotten.
    BTW, I love Burgraff’s blog – loaded with pithy comments.

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