Re: working with other writers

Subject: Re: working with other writers
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 10:49:06 -0700

kstanzler -at- earthlink -dot- net wrote:

> I'm used to working alone, and now I find working with other writers
> challenging. What works? What doesn't? How do you deal with
> "territory"?

I think that working with other writers is always a challenge.
Not only is a lot of unattended ego (including mine) likely to be
flying around, but also a lot of frustrated ego.

By this last comment, I mean that a large proportion of the
tech-writers I've met would rather be journalists or fiction
writers. In their own minds they've settled for tech-writing, and
they chafe at the barely submerged feeling that they're failures.
This feeling explains most of their more objectionable behaviour:
pedantic attention to minor details, their hysterical insistence
on inflated job titles and their own professional status, and
their endless, petty turf wars.

I've found only two ways to overcome these problems. Either the
members of the writing team must be very different in their
experience, or almost identical.

When the team members are very different in experience, the team
tends to follow the lead of the senior members. The team
functions but, in my experience, won't function very long.
Inevitably, relations on the team change as the junior writers
gain experience; the juniors want more say, and the seniors tend
to resist the threat to their authority. Once this change starts
to happen, it isn't very pleasant to be either a junior or a
senior member of the team.

When writers are almost identical in experience, team members
have a chance to have mutual respect. That way, people tend to
focus more on the job than on their egos, and the team can become
efficient. Team members can judge each other accurately, and are
more likely to trust each other. In this situation, a chain of
command isn't needed; instead, consensus can be reached through
discussion. It helps, too, if all the team members have equal
outside credentials in journalism, poetry, or fiction.

Personally, I vastly prefer the second situation. Unfortunately,
it can't be forced. If some team members have considerably less
experience than others, then their input simply isn't worth as
much. They resent the fact, and the more experienced writers end
up feeling that they either have to veto the others, or else
compromise by pretending to respect opinions that they have
qualms about.

I appreciate having other writers around to talk to, but, in many
ways, my usual lone wolf status is less exhausting. After all, if
I get lonely, many of the geeks and suits are human, too.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"Theirs is a land of Hope and Glory,
Mine is the green fields and the factory floors,
Theirs are the skies, all dark with bombers,
Mine is the peace we knew between the wars."
- Billy Bragg, "Between the Wars."

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