RE: Losing my profession?

Subject: RE: Losing my profession?
From: "Jane Carnall" <jane -dot- carnall -at- digitalbridges -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 12:30:55 +0100

Last night at the local lesbian group, someone asked me what technical
writers actually do. (We'd already done the "I write the text that appears
when you press F1" answer.) I launched into a quick explanation: "I'm hired
to look at the product, probably the specs and prototype, read the previous
documentation, if any, talk to the programmers, and plan the documentation.
The plan gets agreed on, I research and write good end-user documentation
that goes back to the people I talked to for review and comments, I make
changes based on their comments, it might get reviewed again, and that's it.
Done." Then I added "Of course, it hardly ever works just like that..."

She looked startled. "It sounds more... interactive... than I thought. I
thought you'd spend hours alone writing." - "Well, I do that too." - "What
do you enjoy about it?" - "Making order out of chaos, good writing out of
bad, clear instructions that people can follow out of nowhere."

But I realised (reading your post) that almost everything I enjoy about this
job (or career) depends on *me*. I have had longish stretches of time where
I was convinced I was in the wrong job... I just couldn't think of anything
else I'd rather do (that anyone would be likely to pay me to do, that is...)

Anonfwd wrote:
>I have become increasingly weary of the software environment and all of
>its constant chaos, lack of focus, and constant demands for long hours.
>Part of it also is that I am more than tired of dealing with geeks and
>their generally adolescent approach to life.

I can live with geeks if they're friendly geeks. <g> Though it's true
Scottish geeks are not quite standard geeks: they play football/watch
football/talk about football. Not that this helps, unless you like football.

>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
> also realized that if I did find technology inherently fascinating, I
would be
>much better off as a developer.

Well, speaking only for myself, I'm still shallow enough to find lotsamoney
fairly interesting and compelling. <g> And enough of a geek that I believe
anything can become interesting if only you look at it hard enough.

<snip> Is techwhirling really a career, or is it just a series of odd jobs?

If it's not, it'll do till a career comes along. <g> A career is in your
mind. If you think of it as a career, take that approach to it, I think it

>As a writer trying to make a living, however, I think that I have lost
>my profession. After the end of ten years, I never want to see another
>cube farm again, never want to listen to someone drone on about how this
>new system is revolutionary,

Here's where we part company... Being a technical writer isn't what I *am*.
It's what I do for a living. I'll go work in a cube farm and listen to geeks
explain how a revolutionary new system (that no one in the real world will
care about) if they'll pay me enough to do it: meantime, in the real world,
I write, I have friends, I do the stuff that no one will pay me to do.

Work is only interesting by comparison to other work. Working as a TW, at
its most boring, is full of lively interest compared to: (a) childminding
(b) filing (c) typing envelopes (d) scut work in a vet's office. And it pays

Of course, I must have burned out 5 years ago and have been running on fumes
ever since <g> which explains a lot.

>and especially never want to hear again
>that I am a cost the company can live without.

So far (touch wood) this hasn't happened to me. It's come close once or
twice, though.

Jane Carnall
"Go not to the technical writers for counsel, for they will tell you to


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