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.
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.
I found cleaning rat cages isn't a bad job. Rats are really quite easy to get along with, And lots of them are smarter than some humans with whom I've shared office space.
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.
I figure out how stuff should work.
In years of working part-time, temporary, and freelance jobs, 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 way too much information entry-level workers don't need.
To be able to do my job and earn my paycheck, I find spots where some information is missing and plug those gaps. I also analyze procedures to find bloat that keeps the system from working efficiently and effectively. This 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 design the 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 a publication so it is not only easier to use but 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 write for print and the web on education, journalism, small business, entrepreneurship, marketing, rural life, and bestselling vintage novels.
I hold seven registered copyrights to digital products on about teaching nonfiction writing to teens and adults. 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.