Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Hardest Thing To Write

What is the hardest thing to write?

Novel? Well, no, not really. If you got a good idea that is slapping you upside the head, then you got it made.

Novella? No. Been there, and still doing that as it's my weapon of choice.

Short story? No. Been there, did that.

Flash fiction? See previous answer.

Intelligent Facebook update?

Jacket blurb, query letter, synopsis? Well....sometimes. But this ain't about that.

A comment to a story/blog post/status update that thoughtfully engages people? Sometimes, but this isn't about that either.

I'm quickly finding that the hardest thing to write isn't any of the above nor any kind of business correspondence, but a reference letter.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. A reference letter.

I very rarely lend myself out to be a reference of any kind, simply because one of the few things that I treasure the most is my word. I've developed my current reputation in part because when I say I'm going to do something, it gets done. Reliability as one would say. So when I offer someone the option of using me as a reference, that usually means that they impressed the hell out of me over a long period of time.

Such is the case now.

As most of you know, I do payroll for a social services agency. Because our agency is so large, we often have people who are our eyes, ears, and hands out in the field offices. They are our go-to people for when we need payroll issues resolved out there and when we need to have timesheets entered (yes, about 25% of my job is auditing). I do both a facility (aka prison) and a field office, and whereas I do an outstanding job with my facility, there is a need to have a competent person to be my eyes/ears/hands out in the field office.

I have such a person in my field office, and when I found out earlier in the month that she is leaving our agency after Labor day, I was very surprised and shocked to say the least. I've gotten to know, appreciate and become a close co-worker to this person over the past 1 1/2 years, and to lose such a person would indeed make things a little less interesting at work.

Because of the exceptional quality of her work and what she has done for me in those 1 1/2 years, I made the offer to her of using me as a reference, then up the ante that I would be more than happy to write a letter of reference for her.

She graciously accepted my offer, so now I have to actually produce a reference letter. And let me tell you, I am doing a boatload of procrastination on this. I really want to do this letter as perfect as I can possibly get it. I do have a few templates to work from as I've had a few co-workers write some for me, but still, the pressure is all on me not to screw this up.

How 'bout you? Do you agree with my assessment that a reference letter is the hardest thing to write? Or do have something else that is harder?


  1. I had an employee who was moving to another state ask me for a reference letter. The thing was - I wouldn't have recommended him at all. His work wasn't overtly had, but not good either. Not someone I would depend on. And he wore Goth clothing and scared everyone all the time. :) So I wrote something like "he has an interesting personality" - honestly, the hardest letter I've ever had to write. I should have just refused, I guess.

  2. It was difficult the first time I had to write one, so I asked for help - then they've been easier since. Very nice of you!

  3. Lynn: I rarely give out recommendations either, because I did it once for a friend (recommended him for a job opening at a regional market that a customer told me about) and it ultimately backfired.

    M: Thanks. Like I said, I do have some examples to work from, but trying to keep it pertinent, short and glowing w/o fawning will be difficult.

  4. One of the hardest things for me to write too, G. And sometimes its even harder with someone I really like! I have three this month I have to knock out and I'm procrastinating. So I understand.

  5. David: It's never easy is it? I'll probably take a crack at it this coming weekend, but with my luck, I'll probably go through multiple drafts before I can get it done to my satisfaction.

  6. As a college professor, I write dozens of reference letters a year. I've written hundreds by now, so they are not all that hard to write anymore. They were when I started though.

  7. Charles: I suppose it would be at that. A snap that is.

    I guess anything is easy once you done enough of them. It's just the matter of getting those first few down, though.

  8. For me, the hardest thing to write is a bio. I despise doing them.

  9. Mama Z: When it comes to writing for fun (as opposed to work related issues), the hardest for me is a synopsis. Took me about three weeks to write one for my novel.

  10. I don't have any problem writing reference letters, but that's probably because I have done a lot of hiring. I know what a manager looks for in a candidate, so I just write a letter that would impress me if I were on the other end of the transaction.

    I hate writing speeches.

  11. G.A.: Yup.

    Been there with my dad and it was one of the toughest things to write.

    S.R.: Makes sense.

    I've written only two speeches in my life and both had to do with school.


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