Writer or illustrator? Let's do both!

Subject: Writer or illustrator? Let's do both!
From: Geoffrey Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 08:51:37 -0500

Sarah Stegall is increasingly <<...asked to illustrate technical
documentation or web pages with diagrams, workflows,
schematics, or (god help us) product illustrations... All
these activities take a significant amount of my time, call for
skills I'm not trained in (CAD, drawing, etc.) and require
software with a very steep learning curve...>>

The first question that always comes to mind when I see this
sort of question is "do you enjoy doing the work?" If you do,
and it makes you more versatile and valuable as an employee
(or more employable elsewhere if you have to leave), then
embrace the work and get as much pleasure and mileage out
of it as you can. If not, then you need to talk to someone soon.

<<While I have training on these systems, this isn't what I
was hired to do.>>

Which raises the second question: "Do you have time to do
both types of work without one type suffering?" The
inevitable answer is "no... at least to some extent", since
nobody's good at everything, and time taken away from one
activity means less time spent honing those skills; at a
minimum, it means less time to actually do each activity, so
quality always suffers somewhat. I've always been a "Geoff
of all trades, master of some", and I freely concede I'd have
better mastery of some skills if I didn't have to dilute them
with others. I'd also produce better work if I had less of it to
do. But I've not yet reached the point where I'm dissatisfied
with the quality I'm producing, and for that reason, I'm
enjoying myself.

<<I wonder if employers aren't trying to save the cost of
hiring graphics artists to do their illustrations by getting tech
writers to do it.>>

That's exactly my reading of the situation based on 5+ years
of participating in techwr-l. The same rule of thumb applies to
editors, which affects me much more directly.

<<Does anyone else on this list confront this issue,
and if so, how do you handle it? At what point
should we stand up and say "Enough! go hire a real

I certainly confront this. I was hired as an editor, but now I do
technical writing and translation, online help development,
slide and video presentations, marketing communications,
and Web design. I love the diversity, but there are definitely
times when I'm stretched thin, particularly in terms of keeping
up with WinHelp technology. (Guess who's got a big project
coming up and needs some serious downtime to prepare?
<g>) It always comes down to a personal judgment call: at
some point, you're simply not going to be satisfied with your
own work quality, and that's the point to dig in your heels and
say no... as diplomatically as possible.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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