Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Tech Writer

Setting: It was that time of year again. A user conference. Many presentations to be prepared. Many mistakes to be caught and corrected. Sore shoulders. Carpal tunnel. The deadline loomed and was firm. The boss cracked the whip, which does no good. It simply created more anxiety.

Location: A small home office somewhere between Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Background Music: Feel free to play "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by the extremely conceited and lame Bret Michaels & Poison in which he whines about the rough life of a rock star. After all, I get paid well for what I do, but ... sometimes you have those moments that are so tedious as to be funny...

Our Story:
She made some bad choices first thing in the morning, before the coffee had even finished brewing. She allowed hubby to sleep in until the phone call came from the mattress delivery men. They called. He got up. They were at the door 5 minutes later. Chaos ensued.

Eventually she was at the desk again, sipping the coffee with hazelnut CoffeeMate mellowing the bolder tones. From the list of available edits, she chose one presentation along with its partner appendix slides. Bad idea. The main session was 182 pages long. The appendix was 202 pages. Em-dashes and colons were haphazardly applied, requiring much intervention. Some bullets had a period at the end (a no-no) while others did not. More intervention. Slide styles were misapplied. Fonts were the wrong style and wrong color. Ugh.

Finally those were done. She heard the dogs snoring along with hubby on the new bed. Time for a lunch break to try out the new mattress.

Bong! The alarm on her phone went off. She hit the shower and put the laundry hamper in the hallway to be carried down by some strong man. Hint!

She had started on her next edit when the doorbell rang The dogs went nuts, and hubby followed them downstairs to let the Girl in. More chaos ensued and Bodhi misbehaved. Should she consider obedience school? Didn't work all that well on the kids...maybe not.

A short but nice visit with the Girl passed quickly. The Girl and hubby ran to the local Starbucks for chai and came back for another brief bit of time. Time came for the Girl to go. Time for the writer to refocus on the project at hand: one hundred pages of instructions in MS-Word.

One problem was immediately obvious. The major steps were numbered, but the sub-steps were not. This left the instructions difficult for users to follow, so it had to be corrected. Since MS-Word is notorious for its problem with picking and choosing whatever style of numbering it wants to use at any given time, she had to pay particular attention when applying the numbering format. She had to be certain that it has not messed up any of the previous edits.


Click the Numbering toolbar icon.

Ergh. It started at "a" again.

Right-click, and select "Continue Numbering". Check all over again.

Okay. Next block of text....etc.

It got to be too much. She put on some iTunes: Coldplay followed by Pink Floyd (Animals) followed by Songs of the Humpback Whale (which freaked Bodhi out). Her eyes hurt. Her hands ached. It was late, damn it, but she must finish this set of instructions!!!

What? No registered trademarks in use? Ooookay. Gotta put those in.

Ah, page 97. Apply numbering.


What just -- ?

Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-Z!!!!!


Back to saved version.

Back to page 88.

Fix it all again.

Save every 2 seconds.

Page 100. Spell-check. Add all of the terms MS-Word's dictionary has forgotten since the last edit.

Deal with last minute requests from R&D. Plan to deal with that in the morning.

Silently thanked God this work day was over and that she is paid so well for stressing out one month of every year.

Add a p.s. to God for hubby suggesting dinner out. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

OK, just had some serious flashbacks. Bad, shaking flashbacks. Ish. I'm sorry, hon.

Daryl said...

Oh. I so relate.

I hate Bill Gates.

And today I hate Steve Jobs too

Husband fcuked up his iMac BIG time .. and I am not sure any of its recoverable .... MEN ... grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr