Re: Poll: Is technical writing a sellout or fallback career?

Subject: Re: Poll: Is technical writing a sellout or fallback career?
From: "Tom Johnson" <tomjohnson1492 -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2008 14:04:27 -0600

Just to provide a little background on the poll question, why I would ask
that, etc. -- I was asked by a colleague to give a presentation about
technical writing to a group of college students. He said most of the
students are Writing or Literature majors who have aspirations to write
novels, teach literature, join publishing agencies, become book editors,
etc. For these students, the thought of becoming a "technical writer" seems
a bit of a sellout to their original literary aspirations. Rather than
churning out the great American novel, and thus fulfilling their life's
purpose, a career in technical writing would lock them into dry procedural
writing, akin to what they find in their VCR manual. It's like an
oil-painting artist quitting the canvas and taking up to house painting

Sure, technical writing is something they could do ... if they were starving
and had no other way to pay the bills. So I'm tasked with trying to convince
them otherwise, because the college administration knows that such idealism
will surely end in poverty and frustration. The college wants to prepare
them with skills for a career that will give them financial sustainability.
I blogged about it here: 14 Widespread Myths about Technical


On Thu, Aug 7, 2008 at 1:49 PM, Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net> wrote:

> I wasn't trying to make a personal attack. I don't know anything about
> your site or what a discussion troll is, as someone had mentioned. The
> terms of sellout and fallback with no other options seemed negative, the
> follow-up question just seemed to cast an additional negative light on the
> subject matter. If your question is whether people see technical writing as
> something negative, like a sellout or a fallback, then why not ask that?
> There are positive possibilities, but the original question by
> itself implies exclusivity to sellout or fallback.
> Oh, dang it again, where's my rhyming? Here's the rephrase.
> Personal attack was not my target,
> temper my tone, I sometimes forget;
> Discussion troll, tangents do roll...
> Why just fallback and sellout?
> Such negative fallout.
> Is technical writing a fail?
> No it isn't, writers will wail.
> Why yes, I'll have a white ale.
> Lauren
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Tom Johnson [mailto:tomjohnson1492 -at- gmail -dot- com]
> *Sent:* Thursday, August 07, 2008 12:32 PM
> *To:* Lauren
> *Cc:* Techwr-l
> *Subject:* Re: Poll: Is technical writing a sellout or fallback career?
> Lauren, I was just having a little fun with the poll, that's all. You'd
> be surprised at all the flack I get from polls on my site (like leaving out
> Doc to Help in my Tools question). Personally, I see the exercise in looking
> more closely at comma placement, but I thought the context wasn't that
> ambiguous. Anyway, the poll seemed to offend most people, including a person
> who wrote me yesterday at the brink of hysteria that I even dared to use the
> word "sellout."
> Thanks for visiting my site, and by the way, if you haven't discovered my
> newly redesigned social news site, Writer River, check it out at
> Sorry for not rhyming my response. Does anyone
> have a suggestion for a better poll?
> Tom

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Re: Poll: Is technical writing a sellout or fallback career?: From: Tom Johnson

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