Q is for Quick and Dirty

quick and dirtyMy apologies if you were hoping for something steamier, but that’s not the kind of quick and dirty I have in mind. I’m talking about the shortcuts, the cheats, the tricks and tips that are good to employ when time is short but obligations long.

Such as the obligation to post something every day but Sunday during the A-Z Challenge, when you are already wrung out from L-M-N-O-P, but are about to leave for a few days of hiking.

One of the reasons I took the Challenge was to become better at a daily writing practice. When I am not actively avoiding writing, I dither and agonize. I like to write on topical events, but by the time I get around to it, the events belong to ancient history. I need to stop overthinking everything, write faster, and stop trying to weave together a million disparate threads to create a beautiful word tapestry that nobody understands.

I need to write quick and dirty.

Mark Trautwein, the editor of KQED’s Perspectives, wrote a wonderful essay a few years ago for the New York Times on what it is like when your AIDS death sentence is commuted by the advent of protease inhibitors. An editor he knew at the Times had called and asked if he’d like to contribute to their special anniversary feature.

“Yes, of course—but when do you need it?” Mark inquired.

“Yesterday,” came the reply. “But get it to me within six hours.”

Deadlines, as we know, sharpen the mind. Mark told me he wrote faster and better because it had to be quick.

I don’t know about better in my case, but the Challenge has definitely helped me write faster, not to mention more often.

I’ve come to view quick and dirty not so much as a guilty cheat, but as an absolute necessity. Apparently I’m not alone: There’s a whole website devoted to quick and dirty tips for just about everything. One of my favorites for writing is Grammar Girl.

And then, of course, there’s the #1 Quick and Dirty of All Time—Wikipedia. Where would we be without it?


What are some of your favorite Q&Ds?