I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. It has been a while since I finished a novel, and I need to get another book going. I have a story in mind, but I have to approach it differently from the other novels I’ve written. This time, I’m focusing on the villain’s journey.
Technical writing is my bread and butter, but I love fiction writing. As a child, I enjoyed making up stories and creating adventures for my GI Joe and Major Matt Mason action figures. As I started writing, my Holy Grail was to write The Great American Novel, make the New York Times bestseller list, get the seven-figure movie deal, and be included in literature textbooks for generations to come (except in the six states and nine countries where my books are banned).
As I got older, I had to temper my love of fiction writing with reality.
Non-fiction is an easy sell. These books address a specific need, like learning to give impromptu talks. Success can be easily measured. Is the information correct? Can someone complete a task, solve a problem, or answer a question using the book?
Fiction is a harder sell. What need does a story fill? And how do you measure success?
Before I started in the computer industry in 1983, I had never heard of technical writing. I found out about it from a job listing at the CSUN Career Center. As I got into the field, I discovered how much I liked it. The career combines two things I enjoy: writing and working with the latest gadgets.
This year marks my 35th anniversary in the computer industry and 15th at my employer. I’d like to share with you the joys I found in technical writing.
If you want to turn off an audience, the quickest way to do it is through desperation. So why do I see so much desperation in advertisements these days? Here are some examples of emails that I received and promptly deleted. Emphasis is from the original.
“This could not get any worse, Matthew…[W]ith less than 12 hours until our FINAL deadline before the primary, [our candidate] is falling DANGEROUSLY short of his goal and what we need to win.”
“I hate to be so blunt: but if 62 [people] don’t chip in tonight, we will miss our August fundraising goal…and struggle to survive through November.”
“Right now, that means making sure we reach our critical goal before midnight – and we’re still $107,124 short. So please, before you go to bed tonight, Matthew, I want to personally ask: Can I count on you to donate?…”
It’s not just politics. I scheduled a service appointment at my car dealership, and I’m getting bombarded with phone calls, texts, and emails from the dealership asking if I can talk to a sales associate about buying a new car. Even when I told them this is for a routine service visit for a car I just bought, I’m still getting urgent messages.
Why is desperation such a turn off, and what should you do instead?
All of us experience moments of self-doubt. We lose a contest, get passed over for promotion, or have our ideas rejected. That’s when the question pops up, “Am I good enough?”
There are times when we feel that we aren’t.
Our talents only go so far. We are constrained by our physical bodies. We may lack knowledge and experience. There are certain things we cannot do no matter how much we want them or how hard we try. We all have limits.
But we don’t know what those limits are.
So we push ourselves. We compete. We learn. We allow ourselves to fail. When we do, we get up and try again. And then fail again. We go through the cycles of learning and failing to see how far we can stretch our limits. Each time, we push the boundaries a bit until we reach the point we can’t push them any further. We found our limits. What happens then?