The eleventh draft of a proprietary document I spent weeks writing, locked under a legally-binding non-disclosure agreement, was 3,573 words. The twelfth draft was 3,676 words. Less than 10 people will ever have a need to read, or even skim through, that document. Once this gig’s up, it may reside somewhere for historical purposes, or it may be destroyed. I still took the same pride in placing my name to this document as anything I’ve written here. Why?
This document should help advance my career, even slightly so.
By giving the document respect, my employer will hopefully see my writing abilities, and guide me toward future roles involving more writing. While I can analyze, troubleshoot, and most anything really, they aren’t activities I actively enjoy. Getting paid to write and listen to the Melvins? What paradise!
Let’s broaden this out. How about the work we do that fails?
It’s similar. I’ve spent countless hours working on things that have ultimately broken down. It’s embarrassing when you’ve tested something and it earnestly works in your environment, only to bring it on-site with the customer and have it break or fail to meet their even casual expectations.
We should still be proud of our failures.
If I could brag for a paragraph, I’m above average at conducting professional technical support because of the number of times I’ve failed. I’ve considered writing a book for years outlining all the times I’ve screwed up on something. Some are just embarrassing. Through those mistakes, I learned.
In both examples, that work is invisible.
Though failures aren’t things we present to management, they are things we can carry with us to help us grow. Successfully completing a project does mean trying out new writing techniques like “narrative” consistency and editing techniques like redlining, though those are also anecdotal trivialities to management.
Our careers are probably, then, built on our efforts.
I wouldn’t have learned the nuances I had if someone else wrote it, including: I wouldn’t have figured out that speed metal like Running Wild makes for efficient documentation writing music. No wonder I like the combination in Symphony and Metallica enough for it to be my default writing soundtrack.
I’m fortunate for this gig in that regard.
I’m becoming more confident in telling other people that I’m a writer. Rowing is an easy topic to talk about without being overbearing and I may bring up other topics I’ll write about to others as a way to bounce ideas around. I’m even starting to open up about my plans for writing “The Story!”
So what if you put your effort into something that fails, doesn’t receive wide appeal, doesn’t have a long shelf-life, doesn’t immediately enable you to become richer, might cause you embarrassment, might easily become outdated, could have been done better by someone else, or eventually breaks down?
Did you improve from doing the work? If you did, then value that work!