RE: on technical writers

Subject: RE: on technical writers
From: Erin Cullingham <ecullingham -at- linnet -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 16:07:33 -0600

I'm thrilled to learn I'm not the only writer who took a job as a tech
writer to pay the bills. I do like the job, it allows me to be creative
(heck, you HAVE to be creative to make software seem interesting...). I'm
not, by nature, a "technology person," so I had to fake it for a few
years... now it's finally grown on me.

Still I am harbouring intense desires to write my novel. My plan, when I
took this TW job, was to work during the day as a technical wordsmith, and
spend my evenings and weekends on my novel. So far, this hasn't happened...
It's been over 4 years since I took up this career path, and I haven't even
considered a basic storyline for my novel... I haven't even decided if I'm
going to go with a Serif or Sans Serif font (Eeek - I hope that when I do
write this novel, I won't be referencing my Microsoft Manual of World

Last year, there was a fairly "big" actor in town filming a movie. Through
some connections and odd luck, I managed to snag an invite to a dinner party
he threw at the large pretentious home he had purchased for his 2 month stay
in our fair city. At the dinner party, I spent more time chatting with the
film's director than its hot, young star. It was surreal, but the director
wanted to know all about my humble little life, and what I did. Here was
this creative genius of writing, photography, cinematography and drama
asking ME about my job. I was almost embarrassed to say that I was a
technical writer (I mean, I'm NOT embarrassed by it, but when I hold it up
to the big colourful, creative aspirations I once had, it is, by comparison,
quite dull). Immediately after uttering the words, "I'm a technical
writer," I felt I had to qualify it with: "But it's only to pay the bills
while I write my novel!!" (As if to say, "I'm really a very creative
person, honest!!")

He nodded slowly and solemnly, as though he understood. Who knows - maybe
he did understand... maybe he was in my position once too. I can't assume
that he was a world-class director his whole life... he must've started

He looked me straight in the eye and said, "How much of your novel have you
actually written?"

I replied, "Well... none of it."

He nodded again, and then told me, point-bank, without really knowing me
(paraphrased): "If you really want to become a novelist, and write books,
you need to step away from the cushy day-job and just go for it. You'll
struggle, you can be sure. But until you have experienced the struggle of
being a fiction writer, you'll probably never get around to doing it.
Decide what you want to do: write about software or write fiction... then go
with that."

Until that point, I had never even really considered it.
But he's right.
At this rate, I'll never start my novel.
I think that if I was going to be passionate about becoming a novelist, I'd
have to make it my full-time job. I'm still young enough that I could
certainly do it (not that there is some kind of age restriction/cut-off
point or anything), and I have no family to support, unless you count the
cats, so I could by all means take the plunge and suffer,
starving-artist-style for a few years while I try to succeed at this, the
career I REALLY wanted to have...

Okay, so I'll write Help in the evenings and on weekends... you know, just
to pay the bills... no?

Anyway, I understand a lot of you out there have as much a passion for
technology as you do for writing... but are there any more like me, who have
little-to-no interest in technology? I mean, I force myself to learn about
it (of course, I have to), but it truthfully is not a subject about which I
get great enjoyment in writing. Anyone else? Am I alone here? Hello?

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