Friday, April 6, 2012


About a year ago, I got a new job. It was not my ideal job, but I figured that it would be a good place to be, as it had good insurance, and I had just spent almost three months unemployed.

As time went on, I got more comfortable in my position, and started getting more comfortable in my work. I had felt out the organization, and started making more aggressive changes to the documentation to make it better.

Things were going fine until one of the two organizations  I work for started not liking the edits I was making. I was just changing things based on the style guide my organization provided me, but the changes were too drastic in the minds of this organization, so I was strictly forbidden from changing anything. I became a monkey for them that published whatever they gave me--typos and poor design and all.

I really got frustrated in September when, on a Friday afternoon, I was handed a document at 4:57 pm and told that I needed to get it out that day. It was my mother's birthday, and we had planned to do something with them that evening. Since I wanted to make a good impression, I stayed and finished everything. A bit disgruntled, I left from work an hour late.

Things steadily declined with this organization, and lo and behold, a month ago it was my mother-in-law's birthday, and we had dinner planned at our place for them. I got something at the end of the day for a release again, but this time, I chose not to stay. I was fed up. It all got smoothed over in the morning, and I was pretty frustrated (and still am).

The thing that really gets me about this whole situation is the fact that the other organization I work with things I walk on water. They love my edits, my questions, my vision for the documentation, and like the way I use my education to help their staff understand the message. I offer them the same support I offered the first organization before they shut me down, and it is well received.

Organization Two loves my work because they understand technical communication. When I tell them that we should chunk the information into smaller pieces to help staff understand, they understand the value. They like making things concise, and realize that there are things like scope creep in a document. While some information might be nice to have, if it isn't vital, it probably can be edited out.

Organization One doesn't have any formal writing training. They don't understand the changes I make, and don't offer me an opportunity to explain them because they refuse to adhere to any deadlines, so I get things later than the 11th hour. Getting information an hour before it needs to be published (along with four other documents) doesn't really allow me the opportunity to do my job and see how usable the document it. Plus the training department has already had the documents for a week, and completed their training for the next day two days ago, so they cannot make any changes.

I kept talking to my supervisor about the issues I was seeing. He is a middle manager who doesn't really have the power to change anything. After doing that for three months, I tried talking directly to his manager. That didn't do anything either, even though he has the power to change it. He is relatively new in his position, so he doesn't want to rattle everyone's cages yet.

Since that got me nowhere, I just started to stuff everything. I became resigned to the fact that I couldn't make any changes for Organization One, and it just continued to eat away at me.

About a month ago, I couldn't hold it in anymore, and had a frank discussion with my boss. I suggested that we find a different place for me to work, since I clearly wasn't doing any good for Organization One. I offered to hand over my software licenses to them and train them so that they could publish their own information. I let him know how frustrated I was, and what was frustrating me. I told him that I realized that I had stopped dreaming. Two hours later, we walked out of the room, and I went back to publishing like a monkey.

The thing that really tipped me off that I needed to have this conversation was the fact that I hadn't dreamed in a long time. I have always been the type to wake up every day and tell my dreams to Wifey (much to her chagrin). Realizing that I hadn't dreamed in four months was kind of scary to me.

I like Brandi Carlile, and in one of her songs, she has the lyric "I have seen your nine to fives wash away your dreams." That has always resounded in me, and I realized that I had allowed my job to literally wash away every dream I had. I had become numb and unimaginative. The stress of work spilled into every other part of my life. I would lie awake at nights trying to figure out how I was going to fix everything, then wake up in the middle of the night with my mind still spinning thinking about what to do the next day, then climb out of bed exhausted, dreading to go to work to face the actual problems I had been wrestling with all night. In short, it was no good.

After I realized that I had allowed myself to be crippled by the situation, I started really thinking about the situation. I realized that I'm not going to be able to change my current situation. The upper management likes to keep their hands in everything (which is part of the reason why Organization One cannot deliver content in a timely fashion so I can do my job), and since they don't see me as adding value because they don't understand what I do, I am powerless to change anything. I realized that I wasn't mad at the people I worked with from Organization One, but consumed by the friction the process caused.

I'm convinced that most interpersonal conflict in a business comes not from personal differences, but because of inefficiencies in the process. People don't get the time or resources they need to complete their job in a way that gives them satisfaction.

The night after I had my 2 hour meeting that should have lasted 15 minutes, I started dreaming again. I started waking up inside and wanting to create again. My dreams have continued mostly every night, and I am finding exciting things to do and experience in my every day life again. It is wonderful.

Yesterday, I took some time to walk around my parent's property and take some pictures. I took a handful of people, but took a lot of scenes from my childhood as well. I was creating. So at the end of this post are a few of them. There will probably be more smattered through upcoming posts, so if you see a random photo, just know that I am trying to awaken my creativity again and do something to keep my sanity.

Nothing has changed with Organization One. In fact, it has only gotten worse. I get more stuff later, and I continue to just copy and paste it into our manuals after voicing some very basic reservations I have with the documentation design. It is terrible documentation, but it is what they want, so I deliver it for them. But I have reclaimed my ability to create and dream again.

Lichen on the manger

Lichen on the bricks

The lane from the haystack up to the house

The hay derrick and a dilapidated cattle trailer

An old wheel on another dilapidated cattle trailer.

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