What do you write?
Short answer: Nonfiction.
Slightly longer answer: Instructional materials.
Really long answer: Below.
When people ask me what I do, I am never sure how to respond. Besides my present work — teaching teachers to teach writing — I always had to do whatever jobs I happened to come across that either:
- paid well, or
- gave me a chance to learn something.
Unfortunately, I'm rarely offered an option 1 job.
Sometimes I take an option 2 job from which I learn that I absolutely hate the job, but that happens less often than you might think. What usually happens in option 2 jobs is that I find the job needs just a little fine tuning to turn it into a good job.
The problem is often the supervisor.
I've found with dismaying frequency that supervisors who know a job thoroughly often:
- neglect to supply information entry-level workers require, and
- provide too much information entry-level workers don't need
Ever since I spotted the problem, I've made a business of writing entry-level instructions, including procedures for teaching teachers to teach writing.
do technical translations.
I figure out how it should work, fill the gaps & cut the fluff
I do the entry level job. While I'm doing it, I pay attention to what happens before I do my job and what happens afterward. I find spots where some information the entry-level person needs is missing and plug those gaps. I also analyze procedures to find bloat that keeps the system from working efficiently and effectively.
Paying attention to what's happening is systems analysis work: Virtually every business needs it, but few are willing to pay for it.
Once the analytical work is done, I prepare some instructions and/or tools that I wish someone had prepared before I took the job. I might prepare a chart, write directions, create a form, develop a spreadsheet — whatever I think the next person in the job would find handy to have their first week.
I do technical translations.
Businesses often already have materials that someone with technical expertise prepared. In settings such as healthcare, engineering, and
I design communications.
My readers have to use my material as well as read it, so I format it for the users' convenience. Often that information design aspect means doing simple things like putting items in lists or using call-out boxes to explain terms that have a special meaning in the particular context.
Other times, I need to design or redesign material provided by subject matter experts so it is easier to use and looks easier to use. When a subject is hard, you don't want to make it any harder by a confusing layout or lengthy paragraphs of type.
I don't always work with material provided by subject matter experts.
Sometimes I am the subject matter expert.
I hold seven registered copyrights to digital products on about teaching nonfiction writing to teens and adults. I write for print and the web about education, small business, marketing, entrepreneurship, rural life, and bestselling vintage novels.
In five years, I built a website with over 400 pages, doing all the writing, design, and illustrations myself. When I closed You-Can-Teach-Writing in 2013, its traffic positioned it in the top 5 percent of the world's five million websites.