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Writing with Sheet Metal (ShopTalk #2)

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The Pull of the Factory Floor

tumblr_mg5w1vrJEP1qzcapfo1_500-01162013As a copywriter I spend my days in front of a pair of computer screens. Writing. Yes, I have meetings with clients and colleagues, brainstorming sessions and updates and phone calls. But mostly I remain planted before my computer, sorting through masses of information, ordering data that came with competing priorities and generally figuring out new ways to present the right facts to the right people in a way that causes a reaction.

Then there are days I visit a particular client’s factory. It’s a factory with a whistle that blows, union members who take 15-minute breaks, safety glasses and focused workers at benches doing macro and micro tasks. It’s a factory that stamps and welds metal, where electricians wire metal carcasses as long and tall as a semi-trailer. This factory is lit so everything is visible and produces a hum of activity across the concrete floor, which is the size of several football fields.

Why give so much detail? Because many who read this—myself included—spend our days in offices. But a factory floor is a different sort of place—a different world, with a different set of priorities and where production is king but craft sits near the throne.

I like this factory floor because it is different from an operating room, different from a cath lab, different from a conference room during an endless PowerPoint presentation, different from a row of cubicles and different from the Livingston Communication Tower (high over St. Paul). There is an irresistible, energizing activity on this factory floor that flows out of the scores of workers. But maybe that energy also comes from my past, because I grew up watching my dad craft furniture from oak and walnut. Maybe that’s where I absorbed the notion that producing a solid piece someone might actually use is a great way to spend your time and a fulfilling thing to do.

In this ongoing discussion of what makes for fulfilling work, I want to trace fulfillment down a different thread. This thread places the writer in a team with a goal of productivity. The writer and the team are focused on this goal of shipping something real and substantial. At the same time this team is also sort of doing life together—because in the middle of work there are the discussions about the rest of life. For a writer, this team-ness is a different way of spending the day and not to be missed.

Don’t take this as a romantic view of factory work. Instead, see it as the reality of the life situations where your craft takes you to meet a need.

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Image credit: Yael Frankel via 2headedsnake

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Written by kirkistan

August 27, 2013 at 5:00 am

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