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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Don't dare to compare

Whatever you do, don't compare to yourself to others as a technical writers. It doesn't matter whether you're trying to see if you're better or if you believe that you don't measure up to others, just don't do it. It will imprison you mentally and might affect your writing. Not to mention this is a waste of your time and energy.

There was a point in my career where I felt like a phony or a horrible technical writer because I don't have a BA. Due to some circumstances in my life, I couldn't go further in my higher education. So I settled for an AA, which I got after I became a technical writer.

When I saw other technical writers with a BA or MA, I felt very inadequate. This would get reinforced when I tried for other technical writing jobs but couldn't get them. It got worse when I saw other writers and focused on how they could write far better than me. And to top of it off, I would have some engineers who challenge me on grammar and style. I felt hopeless.

I would go to my office with my head down and would crouch in fear of engineers and others. My voice got shaky and uncertain. I was a mess for a while all because of these supposed points against me. Many times, I considered giving up not just technical writing, but writing all together.

Things were bleak until this Scripture verse came to my mind.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. -- 2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV

As I kept thinking about this passage, I realized what I was by comparing to others was stupid and a waste of my time and energy. I realized I was my worst enemy. Other writers may write better than me. But so what? That's fine. Good for them. I'm not them and they are not me. And why was I assuming they are better? It could be their writing is just different. And that's good. It would be a very boring world if we all wrote the same way.

Writing is a thought process and we all think differently. The truth from this piece of Scripture started to break some light through the dark cloud over me. But the cloud was still there.

The next thing that made this dark cloud thin out was a book called Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande. This book was freeing for me. It showed that grammar and style are not always clear cut. Thanks June for writing such a much-needed book for us writers!

So whenever an engineer tried to challenge my editorial decisions, I wasn't threatened anymore. I would thank them for their feedback. I would change things if they were right or just simply better. If they were plain wrong or unnecessarily dogmatic, I would show them gently why I chose a certain way of saying things.

I may be a writer and know some principles of good grammar and style, but I don't know everything about it. I've even been wrong on things. Guess what? That's okay with me. As a writer, especially a technical writer, you have to be willing to learn and be humble about things.

The dark cloud was thin but still there. The last stronghold of my inferiority complex was my lack of a higher degree. It didn't lose its grip until others helped me see that my premise was faulty and nonsensical.

The dark cloud over me dissipated. I was free to pursue this simple adage: If you want to be a writer, then write.

A degree doesn't make a writer. It's what they write that makes them a writer. You can't trade experience for a piece of paper that says you're well-educated. In my humble opinion, real-world experience is more valuable than a degree.

Now for those of you who have BAs and MAs, God bless you. No one can take away the hard work and perseverance you put into getting that degree.

I have no regrets except one: the amount of days, weeks, months, and years I spent beating myself.

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