Sweet words

Subject: Sweet words
From: "Steve Hudson" <cruddy -at- optushome -dot- com -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 21:42:00 +1100

<Xpost Whirlers/HATT>

There's been all so many threads of varying hue regarding what we be and how
we do. Yet I am always amused it boils down to some pretty simple things.
Before we start, I want to make it quite clear I am not trying to blow my
own trumpet - I've had a very intense fortnight and it's resulted in some
work being done at last.

<Ramble on>

Today, yet again, I heard the sweetest words I know. My TL (Team Leader)
saying "No, there's nothing else to do, just go back to whatever it was you
were doing before."

Now, if my work was less than required (as is known to happen), I would have
some sort of "Yeah, add this / change this." Instead my production was
deemed adequate and pumped out.

It stinks. I could raise a dozen deficiencies with it. But its exactly what
they asked for, actually a lot better than that (they didn't want much), and
done well inside the extended deadline (3 days) to allow for my being
without my hard disk.

That "whatever it was you were doing before" is my prep and organisation to
ensure that even if I am without my computer I can deliver impossible
results in a minimum timeframe. Like all R&D centers I have ever had the
pleasure of working in, this one brings 3 day timeframes for document
production concurrently with a half-dozen other documents. Yar - 12
documents (I just counted em), across 5 days. It took 6.5 because of a dead
'puter. Why? Coz all I did was WRITE.

A very small portion of this writing was reformatting a single SME document
on the additions to the func spec regarding <grimbles> and <grombles>. It
was written (don't forget - it's a present design) in the future tense (as I
tend to do from my P&P background) and had no styling other than minimal
manual formatting.

Vroom vroom. Fixed that, inserted some BP tables, cuttenpaste and label
sections. The SME in question has priorities WAY higher than my feeble "need
to know more detail here" requests, so will leave that on hold for a few
weeks. A bit after then, someone will say "We want it transformed into
Godzilla ready for tomorrow's invasion of Japan - by tomorrow" and I shall
comply :-) That sorta mission gives my butt-kicking potential with the SME -
no - its not me asking - its <insert name of the big nob here> asking for
Godzilla sorta stuff."

Some of it was rebadging type work. Zoom zoom, find and replace multiple
phrases, double-check keywords... no original material produced other than
<Product name>.UserGuide.doc didn't exist before my rapidly stroking hands
hit keyboard... ...

Some of it was the real McCoy. The situation where your TL looks you in the
eye, about to cry and says "We have to produce a <doc_type> for <product>.
How? What will it look like?" and you look back gleefully and say "Well,
chapter 1 <title> and step 1 <blah <step 2 <blah> with a bit of <this> and a
bit of <that> chucked in on the side as well." and the faintest dawning of
hope starts to rise in his face when he goes "Yeah? Well... OK... I hope you
know what you are talking about" and a few days later he is the proud owner
of a new bouncing baby <doc_type> document that only a few working hours
previously seemed impossible.

<Ramble off>

Q: Now, which part of this was technical writing?

* The months of sitting around writing macros / updating procedures /

* bothering the TL re design flaws

* Reformatting / rewriting a document

* Rebadging (or any other complex 'Find n Replace' operation)

* Taking screen shots and saving them as bmps for the gfx designer to fiddle

* The "real McCoy" stuff.

A: All of it

<Ramble on>

* The months of sitting around writing macros / updating procedures /

The stuff we did at the 12th hour in no time flat because either we had a
known procedure or we had that embodied in an automated process. Knowing the
software inside and out through fiddling.

* bothering the TL re design flaws

When push came to shove we knew what issues needed to be addressed and they
were no longer issues but known obstacles with solutions.

* Reformatting / rewriting a document

Hell - the SME can't even manage heading styles? How the hell can he make it
"look like that kewl stuff"?

* Rebadging (or any other complex 'Find n Replace' operation)

I took a fraction of the time any 'secretary level' person would of because
I knew the documents intimately - it was my job to know them even if I
hadn't written them. Not only that, because I work with grammar every day, I
can do it at a much higher level than them.

* Taking screen shots and saving them as bmps for the gfx designer to fiddle

Mundane, trivial, trench-digging stuff - but my gfx designer was flat out
proofing my previous works. Whatever the team requires - hell, if mopping
the toilets would have got our s**t out faster I would be there with the
disinfectant and brush.

* The "real McCoy" stuff.

Let's face it - without some background work performed in the other steps,
this couldn't have happened. Knowing my audience intimately (years of
exposure in such environs), knowing the 'product' as it stands, keeping
abreast of developments not only inhouse but ex as well, design and other
standards development, the ability to use my tools effectively to perform
common business requirements and more-than-passing familiarity with every
aspect of the document lifecycle contributed massively to this.

I only know what a <doc_type> looks like, inside out and back the front, not
because I've ever written one from scratch quite like it, but rather because
I have read dozens and dozens of them to make sure I knew me stuff. Said
months of 'non-productive' time.

I was lucky, in-so-far as I can actually string many words together
coherently to describe anyfink (unless Mr Beer walks in with too many
f(r)iends - Cheers!), and thus didn't need a rejection slip. However, had I
been el pathetico writer or had higher standard required, the rejection
slips would have guided me towards the goal.

<Ramble off>

<Philosophy on - in vague sub-conscious to Robert Heinlein's "Time Enough
for Love" and Zen>

To write, read.

To love your work you need to hate it first.

To understand minimalism, explore expressionism.

Although a book is any one's thoughts, so are your own just your own - be
your own community.

Be the user to become the guide.

A beer can be finished without being empty.

Be passionate in whatever you do. [Ed: Especial reference to recent threads
here. At least there was some passion involved on all sides]

Reason always turns obscurity into clarity. [Ed: Converse ref maybe]

Taking the first step on any journey is the hardest - one needs the
conviction of purpose that leads you far down the path before you look up
and say "Well, at least the end of the road is clear from here."

It takes more than one word to make a sentence, and so does it take more
than one of us to make a community. (Trivia: "I am." is the shortest English
sentence. Mindscrewer: (In context) So what is "Yes." in reply to a

Creation is not reserved for god, mothers nor artists.

The pen is mightier than sword, it just has a lot less range for impaling
purposes only.

Believe a quarter of what you read, a tenth of what you see, a hundredth of
what you hear and nothing I say.

Steve Hudson - Word Heretic, Sydney, Australia
Like anything caught between an irresistible force and an immovable object,
I produce lots of interesting by-products.

Now's a great time to buy RoboHelp! You'll get SnagIt screen capture
software and a $200 onsite training voucher FREE when you buy RoboHelp
Office or RoboHelp Enterprise. Hurry, this offer expires February 28, 2002. www.ehelp.com/techwr

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