re: The Big Lie (long...very long)

Subject: re: The Big Lie (long...very long)
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 08:53:29 -0800 (PST)


Wow, this thread goes on and on, and there's so much to comment on. :-) I get these messages in digest mode, so excuse my late responces.

About backgroud for technical writers:
I was a liberal arts major, anthropology and linguistics. I'm sure I've posted that before, but I just realy enjoyed those subjects and I learned a lot. From those subjects, I learned interviewing techniques, statistical analysis, interacting with people, observational techniques and academia-speak. (If you think reading a technical document written by a frustrated/unpublished novelist is bad, try digging facts out of social science articles....YIKES). I had only minor technical skills when I started technical writing, and I had to relearn how to write. From my experience, it seems that the newbie tech writers that I've met have had a core set of skills related to topics like, writing, researching, "technology" or something else. While none of them came to the job as ready-made tech writers(just add water and a salary) they did bring some set of valuable skills that they built upon. Pretty much all of them had one thing in common though. They all had an ability to learn and at least seemed to enjoy the learning process. With a few exceptions, they were all self-starters and independent workers as well. So maybe what makes a technical writer is not the skillset they bring to the table, but their attitude and aptitudes.


About what schools and STC teach you:
I have no experience in this area. But I've been looking into technical writing certificates in general (I don't have one). Most of those programs seem to offer writing and theory courses with tool-use mixed in. I think some people have made a very good point about teaching technologies and talking about technologies at STC meetings. It's just not practical. Technical writing does include a LOT of different industries that are not of the Silicon Valley type. For an organization that is attempting to represent every technical writer, focusing on one aspect of technical writing would alienate everyone else. That's probably why they created the SIGs (I'm assuming, I don't know).


About "All you need is writing" attitude for new tech writers:
I don't know what the prevailing attitude is, but if it is "all you need is the ability to write" that's just not true. But the attitude that you NEED to know some form of technology to be a real technical writer is also false. I look at it this way, if you translate specialized knowledge into language that everyone can understand, you're a technical writer. Pretty simple. It doesn't exclude anyone. It doesn't involve shaking your writing-fu at people.


About not being able to acknowledge lack of knowledge (I believe Bruce wrote something about this):
That's just human nature. No one, especially in a setting that encourages cut-throat behavior like a capitalist system, likes going around telling everyone what they can't do. It's hard for people to admit what they think is a personal fault. It's preceived as a weakness. And as everyone is fond of misquoting, it's "survival of the fittest" out there. This is a sad state of affairs though because once you can admit that you don't understand something you can start learning it. :)


About frustrated types:
Someone made mention of people who wanted to be one thing when they grew up and are only working in another field to pay the bills. Specific examples cited were the software/hardware engineer that couldn't get work as one so they are technical writers, and English majors who wanted to write the great American novel and are technical writers until the world appreciates their talent.

I know the type. <cringe /> They're resentful. They also guard their knowledge pretty viciously. I should know, I was one of them for a while. (four years of the anthropology of Japan gone the way of the winds...sigh) <britishAccent>I've gotten much better.</britishAccent>

This isn't something that's localized in technical writing. I know very few people who are happy doing what they're doing. They're at their jobs because they like having a roof over their head and food on the table. There's nothing wrong with that. Just don't harh my aura because you're miserable. Move on and find something else if it's that bad. :)

Personally, I've always wanted to be a writer. While I didn't really care what I was writing, I preferred fiction. If you visit my web site you know that I'm a frustrated fiction writing. I am a very happy non-fiction writer though. I don't do technical writing because I'm just biding my time until I write the great American novel (though I know those people are out there). I'm doing it because I enjoy writing. I also enjoy learning and helping people learn. I'm sort of a cheerleader in that regard. :-)


mmmmm
Did I miss anything. I don't think so. Oh yeah. We're all professionals here, so let's play nicely in the sandbox. :)


********************************************
Sean Hower

technical writer
http://hokum.freehomepage.com

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