A Writer's Lament
The Sense of Loneliness of Being a Writer
Lament, or should I say torment? It has been said that the writing profession can be a very lonely one. I felt that keenly this past week, prompting me to do an Internet search for support groups. I desperately wanted to reach out to and connect with other professional writers who may also know my pain. I didn't find any.
Although there seems to be a prevailing perception that everyone can write, the reality is quite strikingly the opposite in many cases. Much has been written about the fact that many business professionals today seem to lack basic skills in writing, which shouldn't really come as a surprise in this technology driven age of texting and email shorthand. These advances have eroded the linguistics of the English language, resulting in interesting contributions to our vocabulary (as evidenced through updates to highly respected dictionaries) and changes to the rules of grammar, style, and punctuation that were once considered irrefutably established.
Against this backdrop, I head off to work each day to try to make a difference by enhancing the clarity and quality of technical communications that are critical to the business. This daily effort takes place in an environment that appears to sustain the notion that anyone can be a technical communicator, and all it really takes to do the job is the endowment of such a title to miraculously bestow upon staff members the ability to perform the craft. That said, the output often clearly demonstrates otherwise.
That leaves me with very few, if any, colleagues whom I can turn to for support or advice when I encounter challenges that cause me to start to question my own core skills and abilities. This past week was particularly difficult, and it left me wondering if I had just wasted a significant number of years in a less than rewarding career. Perhaps I had chosen the wrong path after all, or maybe I was burning out. Either way, it occurred to me that it might be time to throw in the towel and reinvent myself yet again.
The source of my discouragement came from being questioned for the umptieth time about whether the subject and verb were in agreement within a statement I had written (the construction was solid). This concern was voiced by a colleague who is not a writer, but who nevertheless somehow felt qualified to question my work. The exchange left me rattled, because I expected him to respect that this is my area of subject matter expertise and to trust that I know how to do my job well. On the face of it, this may seem like a one-time occurrence that I should simply shrug off and let go. If only it were that easy.
In this particular case, it was just the icing on the cake that felt like a cumulative hard slap in the face -- one that stung intensely and left me feeling deeply disrespected within my chosen profession. A professional choice that resulted after years of grooming and lots of positive feedback on my work, at least within the world of academics. It was armed with these experiences, though, that I felt confident to go forth and carve out a career as a writer, something I thought was a wise choice at the time.
I am not saying that there aren't occasions when writers make mistakes, and that includes me, too. Usually, I am humble enough to own up to them and correct them. To help identify errors, a writer's work is often subjected to the keen eyes and redlines of a professional editor. Working in partnership founded on mutual respect, written works can become literary masterpieces (or at least very well written and clear technical documents).
Regrettably, I don't have the luxury of working with professional editors, so I sometimes find myself playing both roles, which can be a stretch and a bit of a challenge at times. I also don't work with too many people who seem to appreciate and have a solid grasp of the mechanics of writing -- the actual art or skill required to be successful in the craft.
If you can relate to the views expressed in this post, I would sincerely appreciate hearing from you. It would help tremendously to dispel the sense of loneliness that I encounter each day.