Re: Losing my profession?

Subject: Re: Losing my profession?
From: "Lisa Wright" <liwright -at- qwest -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 00:16:07 -0600

Dear Anon,
Technical writing can be kind of boring--oh, heck, let's face it. A lot of times *work* is boring. If you've lost the joy, or, as one of the other respondents (David, I think) pointed out, if you never really had the joy at all because you were doing it to earn a living and not as your passion, then you need to be doing just this: taking a long hard look at why you're here.

Some people can separate what they do to earn a living from who they are; they can do jobs that don't support their inner passions and be just fine. Others, though, have to care about what they do. Are you that kind? Your message says that not only do you NOT care about the things you're documenting, you now actively dislike them and their native environment. That environment hasn't changed by the way. You have. The "geeks" aren't lying--they're probably jazzed by whatever they're doing. You don't care, so it rings hollow. I used to like professional basketball, too, then I stopped caring. It doesn't matter how excited my co-workers are about Kobe's playoff performance, I just tune it out.

There's nothing wrong with deciding that the tech industry isn't for you. I have a friend who took a buyout from MediaOne when they were purchased by AT&T. She knew that she could get a job as a project manager in an IT department. But she decided that the environment and the kinds of people she was dealing with so conflicted with her nature that IT jobs were out of the question. Excluding those jobs has seriously limited her potential market, but she's much happier than she would've been if she'd compromised one of her inner truths. You can even decide that you don't want to write for a living--just because you have an English degree doesn't mean you have to be a paid writer. Find something else to pay your rent and write for fun.

I strongly encourage you to figure out if there is anything about technical writing that you love. Abstract it from the tech field and see what's left. Anything? Could you exploit and focus on it while avoiding some of the things that are making you crazy? Also, as you examine whether you still want to do this, you need to look at whether your ego can take what you perceive to be the tech writer's dimished value. You said, "the technical writer is often seen as the least-valuable member of a development team and, hence, expendable." If you have taken that on as your reality, well...

There are the economy factors, debated more than once on this list. But think of it this way (since you seem to be beating yourself up): you weren't fired because you're not valuable. It ISN'T you specifically. It's not as if they came up to you and said "you're doing a bad job, you're fired." It's also not professional. Technical writers are valued as writers. But it's batch/project work. Some projects are long, some are short. And many ARE viewed as a luxury by the accountants. That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile or a valuable part of a product or project. Don't buy into the professional "I'm not valued" malaise that seems to plague technical writers. People are not going to beat down your door and tell you what a contribution you make. You have to KNOW it.

>>More and more, I have felt pushed into a role of being some sort
of junior programmer, always the less-than-swift member of a development

At every job I work, one or more of the developers I admire most tells me that I should become a programmer, the rationale most frequently that I could make lots more money. I smile politely, say thanks, revel in talking to them about their techie stuff, and go on about my business. I'm halfway convinced that's why I got hired at my current job. (I was the third employee in a software startup and I can't for the life of me think why they hired me when I couldn't code. Someday I'll ask!) I think my boss thought he could convince me to become a programmer. But he hasn't mentioned it for some time now. Anyway, you don't have to let them push you into what you don't want to do. They think what they do is cool and for some reason they want everyone to do it. That doesn't mean that what you do isn't cool.

Okay, real life just intruded. There appears to be a police standoff down the street, drawn guns and everything (I live in a safe neighborhood, I swear). There's MY perspective for the day. Good luck figuring this out.

Lisa Wright


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