RE: on technical writers

Subject: RE: on technical writers
From: "Cadorette Johanne" <johanne -dot- cadorette -at- locusdialog -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 12:51:07 -0500

Sean asked if some us us were "writing and selling creatively, who moved into technical writing as a new challenge and to earn a sustainable wage from their writing skills (poets don't earn money - just kudos and bacchanalian charm....)."

Writing creatively has been part of my life since I learned to write. I've made a whopping $100 from it -Canadian, a mere fraction of Jane's 200 pounds! That said, I never tried to make a living that way, it never even occurred to me. However, my background in literature and writing somehow lead me to cultural journalism, which ended up really irritating me (picture it -me on phone with PR person from snotty modern dance company: "Can you please tell me what a "fusion of light and movement combining the ethereal force of corporeal essence" means?" PR, in fake Parisian accent: "I don't understand what you mean, zis means exactly what iz written on the press release.") I found the pay was terrible ("Write a feature; here's one hundred dollars"), and I realized I wasn't taking it seriously enough to put in the time in would take to make it to the top.

Part of what appealed to me -and still does- about technical writing is that it is unpretentious, task and goal-oriented, and I feel very productive when I'm doing it. I see tangible results that have an impact. It's challenging, since it requires constantly learning new concepts well enough to be able to explain them clearly. And I have to agree with Jane that tech writing has made me a better writer. I learn invaluable lessons in form, content, style, grammar almost every day. And when you have a job, the pay's not bad.

So, do I consider myself a frustrated writer who has settled for tech. writing? No way. I'm a practical person who figured out what works for me. Have I met bad tech writers who came from a creative writing background? Don't get me started, we could be here all day. I don't think anyone who writes creatively is necessarily cut out to be a technical writer. And I do think that often, you need a fair bit of creativity to write efficiently as a TW.

Fun topic!

Johanne Cadorette

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