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I’m not a writer. Wait…you say…I AM?

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I still remember sitting at my little desk at school one Friday afternoon when I was in first grade. It was the early seventies, and Friday afternoons were usually the time where all of the kids would have a little free time to paint, play, build puzzles, etc. I remember working on some sort of story, drawing the pictures and writing my words on the lines provided, and thinking, “When I grow up, I want to write stories.” I was told that people who wrote stories were authors, so for a while, I went around telling people I wanted to be an author. It sounded a little more prestigious to me that being something else at that age.

As time went on, I lost that desire to be an author because I lost my initial love of writing. I had lots of ideas in my head, but I didn’t know how to put them on paper in a way that captured someone else’s imagination in the same way that it was in my imagination. I grasped at figuring out how to write lyrical details in my stories. I also ran out of ideas. It was just a few short years later that my concept of being an author–let alone a writer–died. I hadn’t even graduated from elementary school. My perception was that writers were really smart and creative people, who were huge book lovers who wanted to create the same thing. Writers and authors were so imaginative that they created whole books of wonderful stories with such intensive details. I could never come up with such a thing. I succumbed to just trying to learn to read books for pleasure (and for me, it took a lot for a book to give me pleasure, since I was often forced to read for school or even during the summers), and while I read plenty of fiction, I also read a lot of non-fiction. I tended to gravitate (and still do), after a while, towards non-fiction simply because I felt I could relate to the people in the various biographies or history books that I read. And let’s face it…sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

As I got older, my grasp of grammar was always good, but talking about literature in any language hurt my head. When I went away for my undergraduate studies, I initially declared my major in International Affairs, but then switched to History when having to take literature classes in French for the IA degree just made me ill. It was in my last two years of college that I had a great mentor (Thanks, Dr. Hughes!) who convinced me that I was a good writer and editor. I couldn’t understand how this professor thought my writing was good when most thought it was just okay. I thought he was just being nice. My best friend would always ask me to edit her papers, and she would end up with an A while I ended up with a B. But did I think I was a good writer? No.  Better than average? Maybe, but not really a good writer. I was not creative, but I could research the heck out of a topic, and pull together quotes and facts really well. But that wasn’t writing…or so I thought.

As my professional career took off, I had to write response standards for consumer affairs departments of major companies. I had some great training in the process, I will admit, but some of it just seemed second nature to a point. Proper grammar, using manners when writing, and just writing coherently seemed to be a skill that I had in great quantity.

It wasn’t until I got to my first post-stay-at-home-mom job that I started to understand that my writing skills were not as shabby as I thought. With a little more training in technical editing (although I didn’t know it was called that), I was starting to get pretty good at it, and…blimey…I liked doing it. Going to graduate school  sealed it for me. Suddenly, I was writing at the highest academic level I had in more than twenty years, and I was getting very good grades. What? That can’t be right. I’m not a writer…I’m a web designer…yeah…that’s it. But a web designer who took editing courses and liked that too. It was a weird conundrum for me. For over thirty-five years, I had not thought of myself as a writer, and here I was…writing.

This blog has been the pinnacle of realizing the truth. Sure, I might not be the great American novelist who will be winning a Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Medal anytime soon. But being a writer simply means being able to express your voice however you want to express it. Being a writer is saying what’s on your mind, but being able to substantiate what you are saying as well.The response I’ve gotten from this blog has been enormous to me, even though by some standards it’s still on a very small, niche scale. And believe me, all the attention I’ve gotten is highly appreciated. I think it’s that it’s a childhood dream that was long forgotten come true. I might not write fairy stories, and I’m not a journalist, but I am a writer.

This realization crystallized for me in the past six months due to several requests I’ve had to write articles for other sources. First, it was to help talk about my experiences at Lavacon’s Adobe Day. Next, it was the request to write some articles for my local STC chapter for the next couple of newsletters. But I think it’s the latest writing requests that I’ve have me excited. I’ve been asked to write some articles all about the 2013 STC Summit–before, during and after the event. I’m really excited about doing all this writing! While it’s not like I haven’t been trained in how to be a writer, everything I’ve done–especially in the past year–has lead to this. I am REALLY a writer now! I speak about what I know as well as what I don’t know, and I speak from the heart. I share stories and information as best as I can. If someone else can write it better, I share it as well.

I’m a technical writer, and it suits me. My training in history and my experience in business, as well as my training in technical communications has brought me to this point. I look forward to continuing to write here, and I’ll be sharing all those requested articles here as well, referring to their respective sites, once they are published.

Now, about that book…not sure about that yet. That creativity block is striking again. Perhaps someday I’ll have a revelation and it’ll come together.

In the meantime, if you are reading this, thanks for helping me become a writer.

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Blast from the Past – Volume 1: The First American Technical Communicator?

Today’s entry from the TCGM grad school archives is from April 2010, when I was still a tech comm fledgling. Note the reference to Walter Issacson towards the end of the entry. His name might be more familiar to us now, as he is the official biographer of the late Steve Jobs, and whose book came out just after Jobs’ death last fall.  I have always been a history geek, so it was fun to try to make this connection back then (and I still stand by it!)

So what do you think…would ol’Ben here have been an m-learning advocate? Knowing his love of communication and technology, as well as his avid promotion of literacy and education, methinks he would’ve totally supported it!

Benjamin Franklin On a night when I finally felt mentally and physically exhausted enough to take a break, I found my husband channel surfing on TV. (Now that we have an HD-TV, he’s on it a lot more than he used to be.) Among the channels that he does like to watch– and I do too, is the History Channel in HD. Last night, I think the show was Modern Marvels, and they actually had the whole episode dedicated to the works of Benjamin Franklin. Now, I’ve always had a slight soft spot in my heart for Ben Franklin, ever since I was in about third grade, and read my first biography about him, and knowing that he had strong ties to Philadelphia, which is the city I most associated with when I was growing up (even though I lived halfway between New York and Philly, Philly has family and that was the “culture” I was oriented around.) This was recently revived with a trip to the Franklin Institute with my son.

Anyway, I didn’t catch the whole show, and of course, my husband would be channel surfing during commercials, but from what I was catching of the program, which was towards the end of the episode, they were talking about Franklin being ahead of time on many levels–which he was–and how he was a big player when it came to eighteenth century communication and science. We know that Franklin was the one who was a newspaper printer, a philosopher, a statesman, a politician, and a scientist. But the thing that ties all those other elements of this post-Renaissance man is that he was a writer. He was a prolific writer, in fact, writing everything from the contents of the Pennsylvania Gazette, to books about philosophy, and writing letters and documents that helped to form the United States and its diplomatic ties. He also opened up the first public library in the United States, specifically the Library Company of Philadelphia, whereby patrons could join for a small fee and share the books in the library, for the purpose of learning and being able to exchange ideas.

The  author Walter Issacson, who wrote a biography about Ben Franklin, was one of the commentators, and he was saying that if Ben Franklin lived in this day and age, he’d be loving it! With this being the digital age of email, computer communications, cell phones, Twitter, etc., Franklin would’ve been totally in his element, as he was all about the latest in science and communication, and for a guy in his time, he was on the cutting edge of such things. Part of a segment I saw talked about how Franklin was the first one to help devise the concept of watermarks and other security devices to protect the manufacturing of money, some of which are still used today.  It was also mentioned that if Franklin had a new way of doing something or a new invention, he always shared his ideas and how he did them, with the exception of this currency security printing method, understandably.  So, that makes me think that perhaps with all the cool inventions and discoveries he made, and considering that he was both a scientist AND a writer, that sharing that information made him the first American technical communicator.

What do you think? It’s a pretty good theory, anyway. 😉