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> About ten years ago, I entered the technical writing field
> because I had an MA in English and it seemed to offer a way to get paid
> for writing. My interest in technology has always been secondary to my
> passion for writing.<snip>Having some time off, albeit reluctantly, has given
> me an opportunity to
> reflect on how I reached this point and what I want to do now. <snip>The
> interesting fact, for me, is that the more technical I have become, the more
> money I have made, but the less I find any of this interesting or compelling.
> <snip> I am sure that some of you are thinking something like, OK. Dont let
> the door hit you on your way out the door. However, I wonder if there is not a
> bigger issue here. If we are not valued as writers, then what are we? 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 team. <snip>I am weary of
> all this, tired of being subject to constant layoffs, and wondering what
> happened to my profession. Is techwhirling really a career, or is it just a
> series of odd jobs?
When I read your post, the first thing that I thought about was burnout. The
second thing I thought about was your motivation. It sounds like you've done a
lot to advance your career as a technical writer -- working on both the writer
and technical aspects, and that you've been successful -- if we judge by purely
monetary terms. But, what motivates you to do this, other than starvation <g>?
I mean, what really motivates you? I've noticed that a lot of people on this
list are motivated by the chance to learn new technology, the opportunity to
help people use a system correctly, the quest for creating perfect usable
documents, autonomy (for freelancers), and the ever-popular standby -- money.
There are many other motivations I'm sure. But from your post, it doesn't sound
like these are your driving motivations. If you haven't done so already, maybe
if you take the time to find out what you are motivated by, it will help you to
determine what you need to change. For example, you spoke about your disdain
for "cube farms" and for the disrespect of your contributions. Maybe you are
highly motivated by having more autonomy over your work area and respect for
your contribution? Maybe you need variety? Even if you decide to change
professions, if these needs aren't met, you may find yourself still feeling
unfulfilled after a few years in your new profession.
I can understand about feeling not appreciated. I've been in positions where I
haven't been appreciated, and I've been in positions where I have. Some of it
is attitude and the self-fulliling prophecy bit (especially earlier in my
career), but some of it is simply part of the culture. In my experience, some
SMEs (not all) have a tendency to secretly think that they are smarter than
every one else ... including other SMEs. I'm not sure why this is; it could be
our society's perception that intelligence and "being good at math, science, and
technology" almost always go hand in hand. (You know the
"I-bought-a-computer-and-now-my-child-is-so-smart" syndrome, which goes hand in
hand with the
epidemic.) I don't think this is limited to any particular profession however;
I think that some people, regardless of profession just like to make other
people feel less than, to make themselves feel better, or to be accepted by the
larger group. I would guess that you'd find this anywhere. In a library for
example, the circulation people might be looked down upon by the reference
librarians. Or in a hospital, maybe the nurses are looked down upon by the
doctors. Maybe it is senior programmers vs. junior programmers, or java people
vs. C++ people. Even in our world, look at the division between "techie" and
"non-techie" writers. Or the way some people look down on marketing writers.
So, I try not to take it personally -- I just do my job, learn as much as a I
can, research, try ask intelligent questions; this generally works well for me
and I usually have respect from most of the people before I complete a job --
even if I didn't have it when I walked in the door. I think if management
respects your contributions, the battle is much easier. But, again, I know what
it is to feel unappreciated or to have your role disrespected -- and I think it
is not an uncommon experience for tech writers.
You asked about career. I think that techwhirling can definitely be a career,
but at this stage of the game, you have to define the career progression for
yourself. You might want to branch out into different aspects of technical
writing. I wonder, do you think that your career is as a technical writer -- or
as a writer? If you look at it that way, maybe being a technical writer is just
one in a series of writing jobs that can be woven into a career?
I wish you the best as you ponder your next move. Although this may be an
emotionally difficult time as you cope with burnout, who knows ... this might be
the impetus for something new. After all, if we were 100% comfortable all of
the time, we'd all still be in diapers, still in preschool, singing "won't you
please, won't you be, please won't you be ... my neighbor?" ... <g>
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