Archive for the ‘Writing to build community’ Category
Guest Post from Kayla Schwartz
[A few of us have been discussing what fulfillment looks like for a professional writer. The entire discussion was in a response to a question from Kayla Schwartz, a professional writing student at Northwestern College. Check out these six essays filed under Shop Talk: The Collision of Craft, Faith and Service for more on that. Kayla’s back with this guest post that contains a few of her thoughts and conclusions.]
“Technical writing? That’s so…interesting.”
This is the response I usually get when I tell people what I’m studying. As a professional writing major, I’ve done journalism and PR writing, but I’ve been most drawn to technical writing.
Why? I had not given it much thought. Most people think of technical writing as boring or tedious. So why pursue it? What really drives technical writers?
As I’ve thought about these questions and talked to technical and other professional writers who’ve been at it much longer than I, I’ve gleaned a few potential answers.
- It’s useful. Some people find a lot of satisfaction in their ability to help others understand things. They feel they are making a difference.
- It’s necessary. Technical manuals may not always be read by customers, but they are a necessary step in the process of distributing the product. There is satisfaction in contributing to a company’s success.
- It’s interesting. For people who are naturally curious, technical writing offers an ideal situation: learn about new ideas and products, and get paid for writing about them.
- It’s lucrative. Yes, some people are just looking for something that pays the bills.
All of these are valid reasons to do technical writing. However, none of them really expresses my motivation (although the last one is starting to look pretty good when I think about my student loans).
I’m pursuing technical writing because I genuinely enjoy it. I like creating an organized, easy-to-follow document. I like figuring out how to use words effectively and concisely. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and don’t mind spending time on “minor” details. I suppose I enjoy learning about new things or knowing that I’m helping others, but ultimately, it’s a way to do what I love.
Maybe this makes me the exception among technical writers, but I hope not. Technical writing isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who enjoy it, it can be just as satisfying as any other career.
People of faith can do better
Amy Bergquist’s powerful editorial (“This man shouldn’t get the last word on gay marriage”) in today’s StarTribune makes a strong argument about treating people as adults. Read the comments (59 as of 10:10am, 135 as of 2:50pm) and you’ll be reminded of what a lightning rod issue this is for our culture. Setting aside the lightning and the working parts of Christian conviction in a multi-religious nation for a moment, I believe Ms. Bergquist is exactly right about Frank Schuber/Schubert (The Strib printed his name both ways) methods:
By contrast, Schubert’s template is simple, yet has proven remarkably effective. He works stealthily, through churches and sympathetic groups for most of the race, waiting till the end, when he unleashes a blitz of television ads that often feature rosy-cheeked children bounding home to tell their parents they learned in school that “a prince can marry a prince.”
Running emotion-driven ads at the last minute does not give room to debate, discuss or even engage one’s mind. It’s all visceral. It’s all knee-jerk reaction—which is the point: We all know that every institution and cause, from the Axis to AIDS, has played on emotion to move people to action. We each tune out countless of these messages every day.
As a copywriter and a student of persuasion and a Christian, I question Mr. Schuber/Schubert’s tactics: while his ads may move the vote, they do not promote transformation. Transformation happens as people engage with an issue and think it through and talk it through (and pray it through). On a personal level, it is one-on-one conversation that makes things happen. The notion of ambush communication tactics may give short-term gains in Jerry Falwell’s culture wars while leaving the nation’s current inhabitant’s thumbing their fact-checkers as they walk away.
I know these tactics well as a copywriter. But anyone can see that advertising and marketing communications are moving away from the trick-you-into-buying mentality. The marketplace is much more conversational and becoming more so every day.
As a sometime faculty member at Northwestern College where Mr. Schuber/Schubert was interviewed weaving his emotional magic, I wonder if the faith community that supports the college can call for better, more mature, truly Christian communication. I doubt the college sanctioned Schuber/Schubert’s particular work, though clearly the marriage amendment would have a lot of support from the evangelical-minded folks aligned with Northwestern College. But I would challenge the community to find ways to engage people in conversation—sort of like Jesus and Paul did—rather than supporting more rapid-fire emotional outbursts.
Let’s grow up.
If it makes you think of blue-haired older women drinking tea and serving Jello salad in a musty church basement—like I did—then you need rehab.
A few of us are making our way through an ancient text: a very old letter from around the first century. The writer said he had seen and heard and touched a man claiming to be God. This writer, eager to connect with his audience, was also eager for his audience to connect with this Man (the writer said his “joy would be complete” if they also had “fellowship”). That’s because there was something about “fellowship” that was not just “nice” and way more even than “robust.” As one of our readers put it: “these first few lines are awesome.” The writer opened an invitation to some kind of life and some kind of relationship that was well beyond ordinary human experience. The open invitation hints at far more than idle conversation. The writer invites full-on partnership/participation/relationship with this God and God-Man and the other people known to both.
Which is awesome. And becoming more so every day.
I see the notion of “fellowship” changing before my eyes.