Gazing Back and Planning Forward: 2005 and 2006
Just before New Year’s Day, the grocery store cashier casually asked me what I do for a living. I gave my favorite short answer – “I’m a writer.” I suppose that’s not an accurate response. Nowadays, I do a lot less writing and a lot more managing, consulting, and facilitating than I used to – unless you count emails. But, I still get a real rush saying it – “I am a writer.” If I were a New Year’s resolution-making woman, I would resolve to join a writers’ group so I’d actually finish some fiction and essays in 2006. That’s why I went to hear Ann Lamott speak at the library in December, and, that’s why I saved the following quote from one of her Salon articles.
Getting to write every day, practicing, improving, trying to give people hope or illumination or at least make them laugh, is a fabulous way to spend your life. It is, for a writer, where all the real jewels are. But the people at the writing conferences hear me say stuff like this, and begin to get hostile and anxious because they think I'm going to make them miss the lecture on the query letter.
One of my best friends just had her second novel published. It got a few wonderful reviews, and sold about 20 copies. She's a great writer. This is what she said the other day: "Having a book published is like being a little girl all dressed up for the party, in your best dress and shiniest black shoes, hardly able to breathe with anticipation; and then knocking at the door where you think the party is, only to discover that there is no party.
But GOD; I love being a writer. -- Ann Lamott in Salon
One of the valuable resources that a largely virtual community like the Management SIG has is access to high tech, fairly easily managed and cost-effective communication resources - the email discussion lists, web site, electronically distributed newsletter, teleconferencing, etc. We make rules to control off-topic chatter and commercial promotion on the Management SIG discussion lists. Too many messages in email boxes overwhelm - too few and members begin to wonder if the SIG is dormant. However, if we strictly limit subject matter and insist on terse messages, how do we glimpse each other’s talents, enthusiasms, and challenges beyond the topic on the subject line?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the differences between virtual and real communities or whatever we choose to call it when we “get together face-to-face” periodically – be it daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. We choose to get together face-to-face with people with whom we share a common activity or profession, friendship, belief, hobby – or even sense of obligation and mission. And, when we get together, we talk about what we’re supposed to be talking about or meeting about – but we also reveal more about ourselves – and, in some cases form lifelong friendships. We recommend and encourage each other; give advice; and in some cases employ or work for each other.
How do we get to know each other when we are virtual and never meet to shake hands or exchange hugs? Often on the Management SIG discussion list, participants provide advice and support to each other. The way we communicate by email does help us convey our knowledge, experience, and even personalities. And the way we shape and trim our emails – the way we use humor, personal examples, and metaphor in emails reveals something about us to others.
What changes, energy, and additional resources do we need for the Management SIG to continue to grow as a real community as well as an effective virtual one? We are a community of almost 1,600 people interested in managing people, projects, and groups involved in technical communication – and, what we may all have in common is that we know how to write. What changes would you like to see in the Management SIG during 2006?
I’d been struggling with this article’s ending. It seemed to need something witty, pithy, and true. Nothing came, so I decided to escape by following one of my New Year non-resolutions and take a walk. On the way back, I stopped to chat with a couple of neighbors standing outdoors along the way. When I finally mentally conceded I was procrastinating, I announced, “Okay - I’ve got to get back to work now.” And, walking down the street away from them, I heard one say to the other,
“She’s a writer!” “Ohhh,” the other said.
I resisted the urge to skip down the street – but did grin the whole way back. Here’s to writing, technical communication, managing, and supporting this community in 2006!