Location: United States

Recently awarded rank of Fellow, Society for Technical Communcation (STC). Owner, Well Chosen Words (, providing consultative support for communication projects including management of complex proposal projects for small business clients to submit to secure contracts with government agencies. Aging gracefully with the ability to see humor in the ironic.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What does Retirement Mean to a Writer?

The debate goes on - What are technical writers and/or technical communicators? Are they writers, defined by product or industry, tasked with communicating with targeted audiences? When asked by a youth, communicators sometimes point to TV remote instructions or other convoluted guides and say that's what technical writers do - but, do we really want to claim those? After all, some technical communication professionals maintain that most of the work they have ever done was technical communication - even fiction writing and journalism, audience analyzing, managing projects and people, facilitating projects, teaching and training, and designing marketing materials.

Seasoned technical communicators struggle with these definitions when asked to tell others how to enter the field - what to study, what first jobs to seek, whether to pursue graduate study and/or some sort of certification. It's pretty hard to design a test to demonstrate competency when it's not clear what should be evaluated.

Anyway - I am debating this question today because I'm pestered by a follow-up question. If we don't know what we are supposed to be doing to be technical communicators, how do we know whether and when we've retired? Still writing, still supporting some of the same clients and being well paid - but, enjoying the work - does that count as being retired, if you're doing it from a home office? And, what about the writing you don't get paid for, but that requires the skills, talents, and experience accumulated -- writing fiction, work for volunteer organizations, articles, presentations - some accompanied by honorariums, some not. What does retiring mean to a writer? Maybe enjoying it more.


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