The power of trust and enthusiasm

The bright side of networking is that you can get help from great people – if you let them… That sums up my experiences at the office, at conferences and at this blog.

As I look back at the last two years, I’m really grateful to have a bunch of great colleagues, fellow tech writers, and friends. Some of them I met almost every working day, some I meet at conferences, others I only know from blog comments and tweets. But all of them inspire me when I feel empty, they give me advice when I’m stuck, they keep me on my toes when I’m tempted to slack off, and they give me confidence that what I’m doing is worthwhile. The mystery is that I can never quite tell where inspiration or help may be coming from.

Here are some anecdotes from the last couple of years where I’ve had help in unexpected ways.

How I went to tech writing conference

One of the blogs I’ve been reading for a long time is Scott and Aaron‘s DMN Communications. On January 20 last year, they gave away a couple of tickets to the now defunct DocTrain West conference, though you had to pay our own way.

I figured that a free pass would be a enough of a compelling event for me to make it to the conference somehow, so I put in my name. I won a pass, my employer was compelled, and we shared the rest of the cost. I had a blast at DocTrain West. And I thank Scott and Aaron for the opportunity.

How I started a blog

In January of this year, I had one of those Friday afternoons: It was past the deadline, and I was still trying to align the documentation with what would be shipped. Something about a dysfunctional process set me off. It was one of those frustrating moments when it’s painfully obvious that you won’t get good documentation if you don’t keep writers in the loop.

I must’ve looked pretty frazzled when I complained to a colleague at length. She just looked at me and said: “I don’t think you should rely on your colleagues’ cooperation to be happy with your work.” She was right. Over the weekend, I set up this blog where I can share what excites me about technical writing. Much of it turns out to focus on my experiences as a lone writer. And I thank Daniela for her great advice.

How I submitted a proposal for a talk

This year, TCUK and WritersUA were within a week of each other. I only had time to attend one of them, so I asked about differences and recommendations on twitter. Some replies were encouraging, along the lines of: “They’re both good!” 🙂

Then Linda Urban, who I had met at DocTrain West, pointed out that TCUK waives the conference fee for speakers, if that made any difference. And that the deadline for proposals was the next day.

I had already thought of submitting a talk to tekom, but hadn’t, mainly because I thought it wouldn’t be suitable. So I wrote up my proposal about “Getting ahead as a lone writer” and sent it in. It was accepted, and I thank Linda for her encouragement.

How I got over stage fright

So there I am at TCUK on the evening before my talk. Yes, I believe I’m reasonably well prepared, but I can’t help getting nervous. So over dinner, I start to talk to Karen Mardahl.

She asks me what my talk will be about and what I’ve done to prepare. She assures me that my agenda sounds relevant and that I shouldn’t worry too much. After the talk, I knew she’d been right. And I thank Karen for her support when I needed it.

– Trust and enthusiasm, mine and that of other people, have often seen me through, when I ran out of other options – as all of these events remind me.

Your turn

Can you remember similar moments in your career, when you were in need of help and received it where you couldn’t necessarily expect it? Or when you could give such support to someone who needed it?

Feel free to leave a comment – but it’s probably more important to remember and to cherish such moments.

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2 Responses

  1. Very happy to help! 🙂 And a pleasure to meet up at TCUK.

  2. Glad I had the right bit of info for you, at the right moment.

    So – where will you present next? So many conferences out there – lots of great opportunities 🙂

    I owe a lot to similar types of connections over the years. 15 years ago, a friend and professional associate (Mick Renner) suggested that we co-teach a class in technical communication at UC Berkeley Extension, which offers a lot of professional development and certificate programs. It was one of the best decisions of my professional life. I’ve been teaching ever since then, and find it amazing rewarding. Really a wonderful balance to doing project and consulting work.

    I’m not sure I would have made the leap myself without Mick asking me to collaborate.

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