Subject: HOW I BECAME ...
From: Gregg Roberts <gregg -dot- roberts -at- TPOINT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 1994 11:41:58 -0600


> I was good at math in school until I hit Calculus, at which point my
> intuitive approach hit a brick wall. Math simply made sense to me...

Yes! I fought and fought my boredom (and errors) to get through calculus.
Interpreting the derivative as the slope of a curve, and the integral as the
area under it, made perfect sense, but *how you do the calculations* (esp. for
integrals) never came easy.

> I ended up getting in tech writing not
> because of any mathematical background, but because of teaching
> experience (closely allied to tech writing, I'd say) and because of
> writing experience (tech writing pays better than fiction or magazine
> articles).

Praise be, that there is a way to make decent money through writing!

> This thread seems to prove that tech writers get to be tech writers by a
> myriad of routes - which is great, because there's a world of stuff out
> there to document. This is also, perhaps, what keeps us from being a
> true profession.

My route was through social work. I discovered (a bit late) that it was going
to take me a *long* time to repay my student loans on a MSSW's starting income,
esp. in Austin, Texas, where there is aa good school, lots of state agencies,
and therefore a glut of social workers. So I just gave up the ghost and set
out as a freelancer. Ed's phrasing struck me because social work has also
struggled to define and justify itself as a profession. One of the criteria
settled on by most social work writers on the subject has been that there must
be a knowledge base associated with the profession. Social work borrowed from
psychology, sociology, educational psychology, organizational theory, even
biology -- the mish-mash became the social work "knowledge base." Maybe
technical writing is a bit similar; you have to know how to write generally,
but you also have to know something about your subject, or at least be able to
learn pretty fast, and that knowledge (much more widely varied than for SW)
would constitute the knowledge base. This is all assuming -- or rather,
supposing (there *is* a difference) -- that this requirement is valid...

Can I remember the other requirements at this hour? There must also be a code
of ethics and some sort of enforcement mechanism; there must be widely accepted
standards of quality. I don't recall the others, but this is enough to keep
the thread going...


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