The Best I Can Do by Michael Ransom
The story goes that, when Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State in the Nixon Administration, one of his aides worked long hours writing a paper for his approval. When the aide submitted the document, Kissinger came back with “Is this the best you can do? - HK” handwritten on the top page. The aide rewrote it and sent it back. The paper came back with the same question from Kissinger. This back and forth continued a few more times. Finally, after much rewrite, the aide submitted the paper with “YES, this is the best I can do!” written boldly across the front page. The paper came back with a final note from Kissinger, “Good, then I’ll take the time to read it.”
Whether true or not, this story made a lasting impression on me. Whenever I finish something for review or publication, I ask myself if I’ve done the best I could possibly do. Since October 2003, I have written more than twenty human interest stories for the Generations of Today magazine. I’ve taken great pains with each one to make it as letter perfect as it can be. Most articles involve interviewing my subjects, writing a first draft from my notes, rewriting several times until it meets my approval, having my subjects review the copy, making any changes they might have, and then proofing for any stop-the-presses mistakes. Only after all this do I feel comfortable sending the story to Today, where their staff does a final review. Yes, good writing is hard work, and these stories represent the best that I can do.