Aside from the TPS reports, it’s not so bad

I just finished reading On Writing by Stephen King, a book that pairs useful information about the business of writing with personal anecdotes about King’s career. It wasn’t a page-turner, but I did look forward to picking up the book whenever I had a free moment.

Toward the end, though, King risked losing my appreciation when he wrote: “… but it’s not all about speed … And if you think it’s all about information, you ought to give up fiction and get a job writing instruction manuals — Dilbert’s cubicle awaits.”

I probably shouldn’t be offended as he’s not actually talking to me here. I am a technical writer first and a “fiction writer” second, if at all. He’s talking to the starving artist in the corner at Orchard Valley Coffee who is using the free Wi-Fi and nibbling his scone slowly enough to last through lunch. I’m not that starving artist because I did choose technical writing over more romantic literary pursuits, for better or worse.

Even if he’s not talking to me, King’s obvious disdain for instruction manual writing does offend me a tiny bit. Working in a cubicle — in fact, I have an office with a soundproof door and a window that opens — may sound like worse-case scenario to a creative. But most days, I get paid to practice the nuts and bolts of writing; I work with editors, I interview sources, I trim out the useless adjectives, I’m challenged to see a subject from a perspective other than my own. It’s not such bad way to spend a writer’s time.

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One response to “Aside from the TPS reports, it’s not so bad

  1. Actually, it’s a heck of a good way to spend a writer’s time: writing.

    I’ve done the starving writer bit. You don’t learn a whole lot about writing sitting by yourself in a corner of a coffee shop.

    You learn about writing by working with other people whose jobs depend upon how well you write. I have worked as the author’s technical editor, and her work is extremely clear, concise, and readable, an all but impossible feat when you’re writing about the technical intricacies of computer technology.

    She’s an excellent writer–in spite of both Dilbert and Stephen King.