A few months ago when the annual Writer's Digest short story contest came around, I decided to take a break from novel writing, revive an old short story, and submit it for the competition. It didn't place, and looking back, I can see why. It was awkward and plagued with holes. The characters lacked life, the ending was predictable. Well, I thought, maybe I just tried to cram too much into a 1,500 word limit. If I improved the descriptions and the character development, along with a bit more backstory to set the context, I could fix the deficiencies and submit it to another literary magazine whose word limits are more forgiving. But that didn't work either, because simply put, the story was dull.
Just a brief announcement: last July I published an article in the Society for Technical Communication's (STC) magazine Intercom about how to be a strong job candidate for technical writing positions. Unfortunately, the article was paywalled, so only members of STC could access it. A few weeks ago, however, the folks at TechWhirl (a separate online magazine about tech writing) allowed me to re-publish the article on their website, since the exclusive publishing period with Intercom had expired. You can now access the article for free. Read on for the link.
We all have stories of stupid things we have thought before, and in our current climate of political division and echo chambers, we all know people (friends, relatives, acquaintances, total strangers) whose opinions we find particularly dumb. Why is that? Why do we seem to have so much bad thinking in our lives and society at large when we have access to more knowledge and education than ever before? That is one of the central questions Alan Jacobs sets out to answer in his book, 'How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds.'
Spoilers: 1. I used multiple book formats, including a lot more audio. 2. Though my overall book count was higher, my average page count per book was lower. 3. I built up some habits focused on quality reading time (i.e., less TV and social media), and in the end these habits were more effective than aiming for a specific number.
They are very different. But how different, exactly?
Many of us writers don't have the money or opportunity for the ideal writing haven, especially when starting out. Wretched wordsmiths that we are, whatever shall we do?
Most people who have an inkling of what technical writing is tend to view it in terms of strict practicality or outright boredom. But what if I told you it was far more creative than we think, and a key ingredient in solving some of society's toughest problems?