I don’t know about you but I’ve lost count of all of the writing how-to books, inspirational online classes, and writing retreats, virtual and real, that I have attended. From each experience I did glean some very useful information. One thing, however, that always just gnaws at my sensibility is the admonition ‘You can’t write for the money, you have to write for the love of the craft’ and ‘don’t expect to become wealthy from your writing’ all from people who are actually making money and some becoming wealthy from their writing.
I get the sentiment, though. As with any job or career, the chances of becoming wealthy are not that great. But what about those of us who need to earn a living. Had I taken that advise 20+ years ago, I would not have been able to support myself with my writing skills. No, I am not anywhere near wealthy but I make a decent living.
Twenty some odd years ago when my kids were young I was searching for something that I could do from home to bring in some money to our family but not have to send my small children to daycare. Although my skill sets were severely limited, I could write.
My first attempt at obtaining a writing for pay position was to approach a local magazine. I sent in a short non-fiction piece and low and behold one of the editors called me. He didn’t want the piece I sent in but he was impressed with my writing style. He gave me a topic and asked me to supply a short piece on spec and if he liked it he agreed to publish it AND pay me! Granted the scale was only $0.16 a word which amounted to about $50 but $50 is $50, and I could call myself a paid writer.
Long story short, I wrote for several local magazines for about two years, all at the same low budget rate. This really wasn’t cutting it so I started to do some research into other paying positions for writers. There were journalists, but usually they wanted some kind of college degree, which I did not have. There were business writers, which twenty years ago did not amount to much more than glorified secretaries, a decent job but not for me.
Then I learned of technical writing. I had never known a technical writer nor had I ever even heard of technical writing. I discovered that there was a technical writing class at our community college so I enrolled right away. Boy, was this right up my alley! My instructor had connections with a large manufacturing company in town so he encouraged me to apply for a technical writing position.
It was the first time I had ever experienced an office work environment and I have to admit that I was intimidated. So imagine my glee and nervousness when they hired me. Granted, there isn’t as much creativity involved as with other types of writing positions but the pay is good.
One encouraging piece of wisdom that I received early in my career was “It’s easier for a writer to learn technical concepts than it is for an engineer to learn to write for a user audience”. Of course that does not apply to all engineers but technical writers play a vital role in almost any industry. Next week I will offer some insights into what technical writing is all about and what it takes to become a technical writer.