Jilara (jilara) wrote,

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Another job that didn't quite go...what's a Tech Writer to do?

Let's see, this is job number 3 that I've made it well into the interviews, then something didn't work out. This time, it wasn't money and experience that was my problem. (In the other two cases, they "decided to go with someone more junior.") I think it does say something that I made it through to the 5th interview, then they decided I wasn't technical enough. And they're probably right. It sounds like what they really need is a programmer or engineer who can write, not a writer who's reasonably conversant with tech. I am not a C programmer. I am a tech writer. My forte lies in making the complex simple and understandable, and turning engineer language into clear, crisp English. Along the way, I've picked up some reasonable knowledge of UNIX, a bit of Linux, assembly code, boolean algebra and truth tables, APIs, and can run a design through a simulator or emulator. I also know more than a bit about system administration, macro programming, HTML, the inner workings of Framemaker, DITA standards and tools, managing disk arrays, and stuff like that.

But I'm not a tech heavy. I have a little bit of a lot of stuff, more the Renaissance tekkie than a specialist. I'm flyweight on programming, unless it's something UNIX-y. I have actually futzed with a few C programs, over the years, and adapted them to work using some other function or parameters (we changed our network around once, and the guy who had written the makefile for generating the topic-based help files was no longer around, so I managed to make it work with the new network configuration), but it's using existing stuff and playing with it. But I really need to have a reference book in one hand. I'm the same way with html. And, sigh, I really don't like signal chasing, though I've done it.

It does make me wonder if I'm obsolete in today's universe. I didn't study tech writing. It's just something that has always come naturally. I taught myself most of what I know, because it interested me. I'm not a specialist. I'm a writer. I can write an admin guide or an install manual with very little input, because I am hands on with the things I do and write up. I can turn SEO copy on a dime. Want some advertising? I can turn it out at a speed that surprises people. I write articles. I even write fiction, mostly for myself. I just like to write, to play with words.

I am a Writer. That is what I do, and how I've made my living for over 30 years. Everything else feeds into the fact that I write, and I can write about anything. But is this a skill that the 21st century values?

I am currently making essentially minimum wage, doing part-time writing for advertising and SEO copy. I can put out SEO copywriting, all original content, on a dime, which puts me ahead of writers in India or the Philippines, since I work twice as fast as they do and my copy is better. I make twice the average rate, per piece. If I hadn't been doing this, the roof would have fallen in on my head, long since. But it's still not going to pay the mortgage.

And SEO writing is MUCH better than working at Wal-Mart, which is what another former Tekkie friend is doing. Apparently, he's at a bad age, too old to be hired back in tech, too young to collect social security. One thing about writing, no one cares about your age.

Am I becoming obsolete? I'm starting to wonder if that's the case.

But I'm not defeated yet. I have to re-invent myself. But how? I'm working on that aspect, but it's frustrating, trying to figure out where to go in this new world where the old rules don't apply, any more.

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