I rarely rant here. But I'm going to do it now.

Ever since I started telling people last month that I'd be taking a tech writing job, I have heard more people comment that, because they are good at grammar and spelling and making nice sentences, they would be good technical writers. It annoys me, the same way it annoys me when people say things like the following:

- "A 5K is only 3.1 miles? Oh, I could run that!"

- "I've been dabbling with the idea of writing a book in my spare time. I know I could do it."

- "Oh, I was really advanced when I was a kid, but I can't play at all now." (when I tell people that I play piano at an advanced level)

I want to say:

- No, you probably would not be a good technical writer, particularly if you think the main requirement is to be able to put words together into sentences.

- No, if you don't run on a regular basis, you probably couldn't run a 5K ... at least not with the ease with which you're implying you could.

- Yes, you could probably write a book. Anyone can write a book, I suppose. But no, you probably couldn't write a good book, particularly if you plan to dabble at it and you don't read and you've never enjoyed writing. I don't know if I can write a good book, and I've been consciously working on the craft of writing for most of my life. Oh, and I've been dabbling with the idea of practicing law in my spare time.

- If you dropped piano so completely as a kid, could you really have advanced that much before quitting? I'm not saying it couldn't happen ... I just have my doubts. And thanks for making me feel like my "advanced level," which is now three decades in the making, is something akin to how you played when you were six.

Rant over. Time for bed.


Stacey said…
I don't really know what technical writing IS, so I can't really commiserate here.

Nobody knows how long a 5k run/walk is unless they do it. Especially if it's a race. Especially if they've got hella short legs and nonagenarians are passing them. I did two in April and it's HARD. My legs were hurting for 2 days.

Sure, also, anyone can blog, too. There are those that I fall asleep halfway through, and those that I wait for with breathless anticipation. Same with books.

It, uh, doesn't take a lot to be advanced as a 6th grader.

Cuz, some people will give you props where props is due, others will try to bring you down to their level. Don't worry about the latter. They can suck it. :D

Look up clips of Penelope on SNL. Sooo...
Shelly said…
I guess it depends on the way a person says it, but maybe some people are just trying to relate to you? People are mostly oblivious to how the things they say may be interpreted.

I'm amazed at your running skills, I absolutely loathe running, I'm horrible at it.

I wrote a book (first draft) for NaNoWriMo, an experience I absolutely loved.

Oh, and I know nothing of tech writing, so, no comment there :P
I can't tech write to save my life (unless the company I'm doing it for is teeny tiny and going to fizzle out within 6 months so nobody will ever see my tech-writing).

I don't run. Running hurts.

I know of someone who wrote a novel. It's called "Cinnamon." I agree with your sentiments.

I can only play Heart & Soul on the piano, but I play it with gusto!!
Bobby said…
I think publishers were relieved with the advent of blogs. Now that anybody who wants to can put their writings ‘out there’ in a place where they think lots and lots of people will read them, they won't be bothering publishers with their irksome submissions. The slush piles have really shrunk, I bet.

The real winners are the guys in the mail rooms at the publishing companies.
Maurizio said…
It's like everyone thinks they can sing; just listen to the airwaves. The one person I've known who really could sing never made any claims to it. Although she had two voice degrees from Julliard; when I knew Susan, singing in the shower took on a whole new meaning.
Linda said…
I like it when you rant.
doodah! said…
Hi! Followed the link from M-mv, and just wanted to say (as a fellow tech writer) "Rant away!" ;)
Eliana said…
*vigorous clapping*
When my husband was rehabilitating from a brain injury (it was a very long, many year process), I encountered a similar phenomenon. As I tried to describe the issues we struggled with people would often say, 'oh, I forget things too!'. Eventually I gave up trying to explain, and started recommending Claudia Osborne's incredible book: "Over My Head: A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out"

Here's a brief quote about her similar frustrations: "...if a jazz pianist were to develop a crippling arthritis and could play only simple pieces, if she lost the mastery of the keyboard and her ability to play elegently, swiftly, fluidly, would she be comforted by being told there are folks out there who can't even play 'Chopsticks'? [...] Please don't trivialize my loss ...by comparing me to someone who never had what I have lost. It only compounds my distress and discounts what I once was without even allowing me the opportunity to express my grief."

In your case, people are, unintentionally, trivializing your accomplishments, which is equally painful, I would think.

Personally, my only claim to real accomplishment is that I am a very skilled dabbler... I read widely and dabble in many fields, but I am keenly aware of the distinction between my occasional writing, or my explorations in organic chemistry, or my adventures in coding and the skills and output of those do these things 'for real'. I think when one brings the proper level of humility to the conversation that a dabbler can enjoyably converse with an expert and use her shadows of experience to better appreciate the real thing... but humility is rarely comfortable.


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