Day 277. Big Picture

Hmmm.  Here’s some food for thought.  Yesterday’s Daily Prompt, here on WordPress, sure made me stop and ponder.  “When you gaze out your window — real or forestfigurative — do you see the forest first, or the trees?”  Hmmm …

How many times have you said, when thinking about someone, “He (or she) can’t see the forest for the trees?”  To me it means whoever you’re describing is so caught up in the minutiae, they’re missing the point.  The big picture.

Patient and tolerant as I try to be, if I am going to be totally honest with you, which I am, I must admit people like that frustrate me.  I work hard to help them through it, but it’s tough slogging.  Much harder, and more painful, for me, than it is for them, I am sure.

So from this I guess we can all conclude when I look out my window (the one in my brain, which is really what we’re talking about here), I may admire the trees, but I tend to always see the forest.  At least I hope I do.

From my mouth to God’s ears, as my grandmother used to say.

More even than intelligence or talent, I think it takes discipline.  To recognize the signs.  To be self-aware.  To catch yourself doing it.  To learn to stop yourself from getting side-tracked by all the little things that aren’t important.  The stuff that bogs you down.  And to focus, instead, on the key issues.

Years ago I worked with a serial offender.  Lovely human being.  Very bright.  But she lived in the minutiae.  She was a suit.  They’re the guys and gals in the ad agencies who handle the business side of each account.  They’re referred to as ‘suits’ because they wear them (unlike creatives who dress much more casually).  At least they did in the old days.  But the name has stuck.

Anyway, back to ‘the offender’.

All the creatives used to dread working on her accounts.  Not because she was a bitch or anything.  On the contrary, everyone loved her as a person.  But when she was presented with copy she was always fixated on the little things.  She would insist on changing a comma to a semi-colon.  Or an exclamation point to a period.  Or an ‘and’ to an ‘if’.

It always got in the way of her evaluating ‘the idea’.

I should point out, by the way, these were never grammatical errors.  Copy is meant to be conversational.  Which means a copywriter can start a sentence with the word ‘and’ because it’s the way people speak.  Same thing with punctuation.  We are allowed to take certain liberties, as long as we don’t abuse them.  So truly, there was no reason for the changes she always insisted upon.  And while intellectually I understand and agree with the spirit of collaboration, there does come a point when one’s own, personal opinion stops counting, in favour of what’s right for the brand and the particular assignment.

And she was exactly the same when she looked at layouts.  Instead of judging the ‘concept’ and how the objectives and strategy were being interpreted (or not), and whether or not it was ‘on brand’ she’d be concerned with the colour of the headline or how the type ragged around a photograph or illustration.

Enough to make you scream.  Which, unfortunately, sometimes happened.

She was like a dog with a bone.  This would happen over and over and over again.  Ad nauseum.  Routinely there’d be six, seven, eight rounds of revisions on a copy deck, layout or storyboard.  And no amount of discussing, debating, explaining, cajoling or even arguing would dissuade her.

A perfect example of someone who can’t see the forest for the trees.

Sadly, these folks are obstacles.  Pleasant as they may be, book smart as they can be, they get in the way of big ideas and innovative thinking.  And if the world needs anything right now it’s those who are open-minded.  Visionaries who ‘get it’.  BIG thinkers.  Not those who get mired in the nonsense and just wear everyone out.

Those who end up killing ideas, instead of inspiring them.

12 thoughts on “Day 277. Big Picture

  1. This was a wonderful post that taught me, made me think and if you know me… I am a lover of metaphors so it was a great read for me.
    In my case, I think I need someone like your serial editor to edit the heck out of my mistakes!
    Also… off point… you made me really think about the saying “From my mouth to God’s ears” in a way I never have before!
    Thanks! I read about two or three of other people’s post before I get ready to go to work (out of the 30+ I get notified that have come through) and yours has become one of my favs!

    • Thank you! Glad you likrd it. No, no one needs the serial editir. You want to fix the right things. You don’t want a nit picker.

  2. Oh, the nitpickers…. I’m sure I’m guilty of it on occasion as well, but it seems like management at my store is taught to focus on the trees rather than the forest, because if they’re not finding faults in our work, then they’re not “doing their job”. So frustrating…

  3. Wow, I had no idea that was what that saying meant. I know, naive but I tend to be quite literal and for embarrassment sake of always asking why as a kid and people reacting in an annoyed way I stopped asking and ended up just nodding my head instead. So I do believe that would make me that annoying nit picker. I drive my own self crazy! I have heard of the saying that I scrutinize like a mouse which can productive when needed but my best attribute is definitely my biggest downfall as well. I liked your post because it didn’t hold back on what needed to be said and was nice and frank. I always get so wrapped up in the small stuff that its easy for me to lose perspective…a lot. This was just the post to get me back on track. Sometimes I need somebody to be frank about things or I just miss the point. There’s got to be a balance in there somewhere 😉

  4. Pingback: Never mind the wood, watch out for the trees | The Daily Dilly Dally

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