Drama Is in the Details

My editor at my first real writing gig used to say this all the time, to the point where it started to lose its meaning. Of course, as with most sayings worth repeating, it’s completely true. Life without details is just a scoop of vanilla ice cream — and not the good kind with those black flecks of the real stuff. I’m talking about the crap in the big plastic tub with no brand name, because no decent human being would be proud to put their stamp on it. “Treats” of bland description are like this frightening amalgamation of steroid-injected milk and high-fructose corn syrup, typically frozen once, thawed, re-frozen at the store, and now half-melted again, served all crusty and goopy in a styrofoam bowl with a cheap plastic spoon, too white to be real and somehow sticking to your hands before you even taste it.

Details count, and not just with writing. A couple well-noticed details, for example, could very well get you in or out of prison. Most people my age learned this from O.J. Simpson. Details could easily woo the object of your affection, as at least for me, noticing someone has paid severe attention to detail just for my well-being is pretty damn sexy. I’d also venture to say that the average HR manager would admit that one little detail or another is what usually decides the last round of interviews, after the playing field is largely leveled.

Certain people (like me) can get obsessed about details to a point that it makes them lose sight of the big picture. But I still contend that it’s better than the sloppy, inattentive opposite. Just about everyone works, plays, loves, etc. The details make us individuals.

One more thing: Beware of people that claim to be “not a details person,” or even worse, “a big picture guy.” They must teach you how to be this in business school, because MBAs are great at pulling off this kind of bullshit. Every organization needs a couple “deciders,” but 99% of amazing work is done by those willing to trouble themselves with the minutiae. Turning a blank canvas into something great is a lot harder, and more commendable, than being the guy that says “we need to turn this blank canvas into something great.” Nice idea boss.

But I could be wrong. If you think so, I know a great “not a details person” surgeon for you.

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© 2012, Ian Mathias