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> Problem: I am burned out (or very close to approaching it).
[He then goes on to list why he thinks he is, all of which are perfectly
reasonable symptoms of burnout.]
> As a tech writer, there are several things that I am lacking that are vital to
> me -- close
> contact with people during the work day (I really love to help people --
> face to face), a stable working location with different projects (instead of
> what I have now -- different locations but the same old manuals over and
> over again -- with different covers and titles), and perhaps the thing I
> miss most -- creativity. <snip>
> I've already scheduled some time off
> later this year so I can't take any time off between now and December -- I'm
> at the stage where one or two days off will not cut it -- I need a strategy
> to get me to December -- after which I will probably be in a better frame of
> mind to make some long-term career decisions.
Seems to me there's a short-term problem (how to make it to December) and a
long-term problem (not liking the continuing kind of assignments you're
getting). Others have commented on some short-term solutions which would work
for some people - only you know if spending a couple of hours at the gym three
or four nights a week would help. The basic idea is to give yourself some mental
first aid by doing something completely different with enough intensity to
remove your mind from the tech writing world. It's akin to giving yourself a
problem to solve overnight and then waking up in the middle of the night or in
the morning with the solution right there. Your "back brain" can do the
processing while your "front brain" is busy with something else. This kind of
strategy may help you hold on until your December vacation days.
Long term, however, the problem is identifying what the job is called that
encompasses the kinds of things you like to do. (From your brief description,
for instance, you sound like you would enjoy being a technical instructor. Or
in the upper levels of technical support.) You may have to give a little in
terms of your rate, depending on your geographic market. You can start by
talking to people who sound like they have jobs with the kinds of activities you
like, and see whether they can give you any pointers. In many companies,
there's a high degree of overlap between instructors and technical writers, and
between tech support and technical writers.
Allow yourself the luxury of being wrong about your assessment of your technical
writing jobs. Yes, to many it looks like writing the same manuals over and over
again. But when the market is tight and there are more openings than qualified
people to fill them, there are lots of opportunities for trying something new.
Your use of the term "supervisor/contracting company/customers" to describe whom
you have to please implies that you are a contractor, and thus able to choose
what you want to do. You might make your discontent known to the contracting
company and ask for a little more variety in your assignments. Most good ones
know that the care and feeding of the talent is of prime importance to ensure
long-term cash flow.
Finally, use this list as a place to let off steam. Many of us have been there
and done that and found ways to survive with our sanity more or less intact.
And we have war stories to prove it!