Manuals, She Wrote

An expansion of an item from my Thankfulness list.

Half my life is an act of revision.

— John Irving

I didn’t always want to be a writer. Sure, it’s my only talent, but I hoped that by the time I hit 18 and went to college, I’d have something cooler up my sleeve. I’d emerge a chemist, a nurse, an international business woman, an archeologist. After the disappointing arrival of my first college semester’s grades, during which I took science and politics, I realized I had no choice but to settle for the calling that today’s society calls sub-par. I am, unfortunately, a writer.

I still refused to accept the doom of a journalism major. I didn’t want to be a journalist. Yeah, my mom was a journalist, and she raised me to think, brainstorm, research, and write like a (truthful) journalist, but I did not want that kind of life. I knew what the paycheck would look like. Plus, who wants to talk to people and write hurriedly for an unrealistic deadline and most likely a stupidly liberal news source? Not me.

I didn’t want to be a novelist. Like I have that kind of motivation or patience. My creative writing assignments always lasted no more than three pages. I would simply run out of creativity. I can’t just pluck random things out of the air and come up with something amazing and original, like Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice or The Scarlet Pimpernel. I just don’t have the juice for it. I’m a dry, crackling history and philosophy buff who wrote all my 10+ page research papers on historical figures and religions. My proudest high school moment was turning in my 12 page paper on Hitler. Yes, Hitler. Why write about imaginary events when real life was and is so much more interesting?

I was stuck. I tried out an International Studies major. Nah. I tried on a Youth Ministries major. That was a joke. I don’t need a major to minister to youth. But there was nothing else for me to do. I couldn’t get paid to do the thing I love most.

Until I talked to a guy I called Pedro. He was a missionary kid from Brazil who came to Cedarville University to be an engineer. After his first math class, he realized he didn’t want to be an engineer. But what to do? He loved figuring out how things worked and putting things together and researching cool technology. He also loved writing. So he invited me to join the TPC program with him.

Technical and Professional Communications, eh?

I was hooked. We learned document design, technical editing, manual layout, visual tools for communications. This wasn’t school — this was playtime for me. I loved it.

Fast forward three and a half years. I’m working under a Christian boss, writing and editing manuals for a software company in my own city. Sure, there are challenges, like every job. Most involve the software developers’ inability to communicate well.

But that’s why I’m there. I’m the liaison between normal humans who don’t have time to translate jargon and genius humans who don’t have time to learn to write. I make their documents bleed so that the general populus can understand their brilliant software design.

My name isn’t included in any of my work. No one knows who I am. No want wants to read my writing. No one cares about the tasteful document design. No one in my own company knows what I do or how I do it or how hard I work or how nice it would be if someone said, “Great job” once in a while.

But it’s alright. I don’t mind. Because I care. And I love it all.

So thankful for this job of mine, even when I have no idea what’s going on.

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