Details, details, details

Today, I fudged a small detail to make an idea work. It was caught, and we all laughed about it. It was harmless, a leap of logic that no one would make, a trifle that doesn’t hurt the idea, but the absence of leaves the idea incomplete.

The big picture was enhanced. Without it, it was killed – it didn’t make sense. It was a detail that, in the long run, added up to nothing – a giant zero on the scale of relevance. Or at least a 0.1.

I’ll admit. I’m not detail oriented. It’s a death knell for me as a professional proofer, I’m sure. I force the details as part of my job, and it’s become second nature to find mistakes in other people’s writing, but I’m sometimes just not that interested in details.

It puts me in a difficult position.

It’s evident that, many times, I miss my own errors. But that’s merely a by-product – it’s the idea-killing details that bother me – the details that bring down a monster concept. Obviously, crucial details are important, like the minor nerve endings and white blood cells in a body of work. But the nitpicky details? They’re like birthmarks, skin whorls that are ultimately useless.

And critiquing them does nothing but drive an idea off course.

Some great ideas have been killed by details, cut down and left for dead by a billion small pin pricks. I’ve put together brilliant plans and incredibly creative concepts, only to watch then torn apart by the nitpickers – oftentimes, middle management marketing managers who are paid, apparently, to ask for creativity and then slowly sap every last ounce of it out of a project.

It’s one of the perils of working small – of living in the Midwest where very few businesses want to be edgy. Or, in that case, can afford to be edgy. There’s no reason for simple marketing to become uber-creative just because, I understand that. But the micromanaging? Please.

Forest for the trees, my friends. If the overall concept works, and it’s fun and it gets attention and highlights everything that’s good about a business, then so be it. Don’t bring a baseball eye to a prize fight – an eye trained for OBP and WHIP and ERA will find flaws in anything, if given a chance, and the overall thrill of the fight is lost in the shuffle.

I will overlook a bad turn of phrase if the overall story is brilliant. I will overlook an unusual spelling if it’s used in context. I don’t believe the details should run the overall theme, the rats not fleeing the ship but overtaking it, steering it in the wrong direction and driving it into an iceberg, forever killing the idea.

I see this every day. The logo is a half-inch too small, the wording should be switched around like this, the headline is too big, the picture doesn’t show enough staged diversity. These aren’t critical details, like a wrong phone number or misspelled web site. These are the things that a person with too little control changes because it’s all they can do to make the project theirs.

I’m not wired to take every small part of every day into account. My head has always seen the positive or negative of an overall series of events, not the battles therein. I’m a war guy, willing to lose a skirmish in order to better life as a whole.

I’m a big picture guy. Or at least, I try to be. I might not be very good at it, but at least I’m not nitpicking as much as I could.

And that idea I talked about fudging? This post is it. That scenario has never happened to me.

But it sure illustrated the point, right? Big picture wins.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 26th, 2007