Epiphanic Experiences and TW (was Re: Boring Discussions)

Subject: Epiphanic Experiences and TW (was Re: Boring Discussions)
From: Michael Collier <mci -at- LUBRIZOL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 13:38:20 GMT

Willard Brooks wrote:

<I am wondering if this boredom does not reflect the field of TW itself.
More,> <I have not recieved the epiffany experience I had perhaps
unrealistically > <hoped for telling me that TW was going to be my lifes
work and something that> <I MUST do.>

<I get a sense of an underlying hope in the disscussions here that people are>
<desparate to talk about SOMETHING interesting. Is this because tech writers>
<are living lives of silent desparation or am I, as a neophyte and potential>
<practitioner, just missing the point and the collective fires burning out>
<there in the souls of the worlds tech-pubers?>

First of all, the discussions that occur on this list shouldn't be taken to
reflect the profession as a whole. They represent only what others decide to
contribute in an otherwise idle moment--nothing more, nothing less.

The day to day work of technical writers probably isn't any more or less
interesting than any other job. When you're in a university environment, as
you are, you feels a sense of expansion, learning and growth; by contrast,
in your first technical writing job, you may well find yourself being asked
to "just follow the spec." So you'll be disappointed if you "fall in love"
with the idea of being a tech writer in the sense that one can "fall in
love" with poetry, Shakespeare, the nuances of language and literature or
other intellectually stimulating topics.

To be a successful tech writer, though, (assuming you have good English
skills and an interest in writing) you should at least develop an
appreciation for learning new skills and subject matter that will make a
difference in how you do your job. Do you like learning how a vacuum pump
works, say, or how an electrical system for a transit car is designed? Are
you curious about flow measurement, avionics, flight simulators? I sure
wasn't interested in these things when I attended university. But my work
led me to develop an interest in them, at least for the sake of getting some
good documentation together (plus my paycheck!)

Not that these are in and of themselves interesting topics--my general point
is, do you enjoy learning new things? Or, do you derive satisfaction from
creating clear instructions on how to perform complex tasks--and seeing
people do tasks they didn't think they can do?

A technical writing career itself isn't necessarily going to supply these
intangibles for you. But if you bring to your job an enjoyment of
learning--including learning things you didn't ever think you'd be
especially interested in--and a sense that what you labor on will make a
difference to someone, somewhere, someday--you'll have something to bank
besides your paycheck.

Michael Collier
mci -at- lubrizol -dot- com

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