“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings.” Pr 22:29 NIV
Journalist William Zinsser’s first job was writing for The New York Herald Tribune. Traditionally “cub” reporters often start by writing obituaries, but Zinsser was frustrated with his assignment. “I could be doing Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting,” he thought to himself, “and I’m stuck writing obituaries.” Finally he worked up enough courage to ask his editor, “When am I going to get some decent story assignments?” His crusty old editor growled at him and said, “Listen, kid, nothing you write will ever get read as carefully as what you are writing right now. You misspell a name, you mess up a date, and a family will be hurt. But you do justice to somebody’s grandmother or somebody’s mom, you make a life sing, and they will be grateful forever. They will put your words in laminate.” “Things changed. I pledged I would make the extra calls,” Zinsser said. “I would ask the extra questions. I would go the extra mile.” That is essentially from the Sermon on the Mount—write obituaries for others as you would want others to write an obituary for you—obituaries that deserve to be laminated—because someday, somebody will. Zinsser eventually moved on to other kinds of writing, including a book on writing itself that has sold more than a million copies. But none of it would have happened if he had not devoted himself to obituaries. Understand this: if you cannot experience the spirit in the work you are doing today, then you cannot experience the spirit today at all.