As a freelance technical writer, I’ve learned to consolidate the myriad words people throw at me for their requested project. It’s a valued – and necessary – attribute, since people are always in such a hurry these days and want quick answers to even the most complex of matters.
For example, a few years ago a
client contracted me to develop a troubleshooting guide. They digitally handed me a slew of documents;
literally a mish-mash of typed and handwritten notes about a software upgrade
they wanted for their external customers.
“I need as much of this
condensed as you possibly can,” the project manager instructed. The software users were busy people (in the
tech world?!) and no one had time to fumble through reams of (digital)
paper. “No pressure,” she added reassuringly.
Of course! No pressure.
What’s that? This was a
troubleshooting guide, after all – not a historical romance.
Thus, I scrounged through the morass
of information for a few days and – as difficult as it was – I actually managed
to fit all the verbiage onto one page:
Odd, but I haven’t heard from
Today, the Chief begins the next phase of his increasingly curious life – another job. It’s a contract technical writing position – the third one in the past year. The last two were pulled out from beneath me without much warning. So, we’ll see how this one goes. I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm. A close friend of mine told me not to be so pessimistic; that people can sense a negative attitude and eventually steer away from it. I almost told him to go to hell, but he’s such a good friend, and I don’t have too many friends. Such is the plight of the writer. We observe and write about human nature, but just don’t like to get too close to those human types. Admittedly, it’s tough to be optimistic after enduring unemployment for the better part of the past two years. Getting laid off from that engineering company was a mixed blessing. The stress throughout that last year had become almost unbearable.
So, why would I put myself back into that maelstrom? Well, there are these minor inconveniences called bills. They’re like zits to a teenager. You eliminate one, and another pops up. They just don’t go away. My student loan zits have become especially annoying. They really just won’t go away! They impact another little inconvenience called credit reports. I suppose I could pack up and move far away to some isolated coastal community like a lot of writers and concoct a new identity to eschew those little pests. But, I’m too tied to this community.
Thus, I reenter the corporate world once again; pushing my creative writing career just a tad further back. But, I need and want this technical writing experience. I love it almost as much as I do fiction writing. I trained for it anyway; my English degree specializes in professional writing. I have to make that pay off. Besides, I reflect on my years in the standard business world and found all the crap I’ve seen and done makes for some great stories! That’s the writer in me: always finding a way to humiliate the people around me without them realizing it.
In homage to my first day on the job as an experienced technical writer.
Today I return to work for the first time in almost 11 months. It’s a strange feeling. I’m once again entering the corporate underworld that apparently keeps spitting me back out. But, I don’t play the lottery, and my gold bullion investment hasn’t paid off yet. I’ve been laid off three times from major companies within the past 23 years – two banks and an engineering corporation. I guess that’s a pretty good track record. I don’t jump from job to job. As creative as my mind is, I do like some semblance of order and stability. I definitely want my fiction writing career to be as successful as my dreams think it is. But, in the meantime, there are these awful creatures called bills and an especially evil entity known as a student loan debt. This particular job is a contract technical writing position that should take me into the first of the year – provided the Mayan calendar doesn’t prove to be truthfully apocalyptic. Besides, I enjoy technical writing as much as I do creative writing. Sometimes, the boundary between the two is as clear as a fog bank.
One good thing about working in corporate America is the slew of operatic real-life stories I’ve gathered for equally juicy stories. I’ve met some incredible people and endured some traumatic ordeals. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Well, except for a lump sum payoff from that gold bullion and a million-dollar book contract.