I wanted to be a writer all my life, but with a college degree in creative writing, it wasn’t easy to find a job or a career. I knew it was wishful thinking to believe I might someday become a successful novelist or poet.
My career as a book editor
I searched around for any job that had something to do with writing. Luckily, I got a break, and I was hired as an assistant editor for a book publishing company in Los Angeles. Aside from answering phones and typing up author and agent correspondence, I reviewed the unsolicited manuscripts and made publishing recommendations based on character and plot development. I seemed to have a knack for editing–I had found my career.
After a year, I made the move to New York. All the major publishing houses were there and it wasn’t hard to find a position as a book editor. The only problem was that I hated living in New York. On an assistant editor’s salary, the city was a struggle. So I moved back to Los Angeles and found one of the only book publishing companies around there. Once hired, I worked with famed authors and budding novelists. But soon the company cut back its business and most of us lost our jobs.
Introduction to computers
While pouring over lists of job ads, I kept seeing those for word processors. I didn’t know what that was, but if it had something to do with words, I thought I’d better find out. A free introductory class to word processing got me out the door on a very rainy night. When I got to the class, the instructor asked if someone would help demonstrate what a word processor could do. I volunteered, and as I moved words around on the screen and formatted them with simple commands, I became completely fascinated.
Computer technology was growing fast. I thought there must be something a writer could do in this new industry. As it turned out, there was a great need for people to write computer manuals. I felt a door open.
My career as a technical editor
Again I got lucky and without too much effort, I landed a job as a technical editor at a major computer company. I completely embraced the technology, and my new career took off. Working closely with programmers, subject matter experts, and graphic designers, I wrote and edited user’s guides, installation manuals, online help, computer-based training, release notes, and later, web content. There didn’t seem to be an end to the opportunities.
Today the technology industry seems to be growing even faster than I can keep up with, and there are crowds of technical writers and editors vying for the same jobs. It’s getting harder to find work, and lately I’ve been wondering if my career will take another turn. If so, I hope it will be as interesting and exciting as the ones that came before it.