Thursday, December 31, 2020

A memory: Murray Weidenbaum

In grad schooI, I worked for Murray Weidenbaum, at the Wash U CSAB, as a research assistant.  He gave me a hard assignment, on the costs of trade barriers. 

I did the research, and wrote a draft. It took about a month. 
It came back completely covered with changes, amendments, cross-throughs, and requirements for more research. There may have been three or four sentences, total, in ten pages, that were unchanged. (This was 1982, in the days of pen and paper revisions).
I was disappointed it was so marked up, and I guess it showed in my face. 

Murray saw that, and laughed. "Look, Mike. This is fine. If it had been bad, I would've made some vague suggestions and told you it was good. That would have been the end of it. And the end of YOU, frankly. I'm don't have time to train RAs."

"Instead, this is a workable draft. Remember: busy people only spend time on good first drafts. You did a competent job, so I spent time on it. Now go finish it." 

He added me as a coauthor (second author, but still). And taught me that no first draft is any good. The GOAL is to have a first draft worth marking up so much that it looks like red spaghetti. That's actually what success looks like!