Making a living out of writing

I consider myself an extremely fortunate person for a number of reasons, mostly to do with choosing my parents well and being born in Australia in the 20th century, the greatest Golden Age of peace and prosperity ever known in history probably.

I had the good fortune to go to university and do a Bachelor of Arts. Studying Arts was considered a total waste of time of course, the letters ‘B.A.’ ostensibly stood for ‘Bugger All’, because that was the sum total of what you’d learnt that could be called useful.

This didn’t bother me at the time for several reasons:
a). in the 1980s in Australia tertiary education was free
b). I had no idea what I wanted to do in life
c). I was fascinated by History and English
d). I got to hang out in the bar with lots of intelligent, beautiful girls.

After four years of study of course, I had to get a job. My ambitions of rock stardom had become somewhat diminished by this stage, and finding myself working in the documentation department of a major bank instead of being on stage fending off throngs of adoring female fans came as something of a shock. Not only was the uniform hideous (but cheap, hmm, could there have been a connection?), but the environment was much like being back at school, only worse.

I found the ‘corporate culture’ in the place utterly stifling, and the career path books they made everyone fill out just reinforced how little interest I had in the place, or in climbing some sort of career ladder to become (shudder) a ‘banker’. So I went out and started working as a contractor doing technical writing.

Twenty years later I find myself regularly called in as a consultant to that bank and many other companies, to be briefed on major writing projects for things as diverse as an insurance Product Disclosure Statement, a weblog, a set of Investment Governance Guidelines, a marketing brochure, a complete set of customer correspondence, the list goes on and on.

It’s miraculous to me that I managed to turn four years of learning how to research, analyse and write into a successful career as a technical writer/analyst/copywriter, providing a service that very few people can do (at least not very well). Just goes to show that the vocational choice of education is not always the most suitable one for everyone. If I’d had the intent I could have studied accounting, law, engineering or even music, but it was pretty clear where I’d end up with any of those choices. Arts gave some flexibility at least.

Convincing some of my customers that they are actually really bad writers is sometimes difficult, and I expect that within the next few years I’ll be made redundant by an app that will instantly explain everything about anything to anyone, but until then I’m at least getting some sense of satisfaction out of making a living out of writing.

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