Do specialties make a difference in our careers as writers? That’s what popular blogger Tom Johnson muses about in his personal summary of last week’s LavaCon 2012 Conference (Specializing in the Next Big Thing: A Few Lingering Thoughts from Lavacon). At one point in his post, Tom mentions a conversation that he and I had during conference, and observes that Web programming is the evident specialty behind my writing. Tom’s introspective points about writers needing to become specialists left me wondering, “What is the drive behind my (or any writer’s) specialties?”
As a coworker from Florida once reminded me, “Sin pasión, la vida no es nada” (Without passion, life is nothing). In his post, Tom admits that a passion for story drives his writing style, and his passion for story is easily apparent throughout his lucid and entertaining blog.
My passion even from high school has been to democratize information, to make publishing simpler for all. (Some could argue that this goal of simplicity has yet to be evidenced in my personal writing style.) That passion guided my career as a tool provider for the writing community where I worked at IBM, branching more recently to what might be considered a fool’s errand, to demonstrate that the DITA (or Darwin Information Typing Architecture) standard is a reasonable candidate for most kinds of collaboratively created, intelligent content across the enterprise and beyond. In other words, to move DITA beyond its perception as being only for TechComm.
What I didn’t think to tell Tom in our short conversation was that I learned Web programming skills so that I could demonstrate DITA’s versatility in these collaborative scenarios where I know it can benefit writers. It was a choice guided by my life’s passion of accessible publishing.
And as Paolo Coelho points out in his wonderfully thought-provoking novel, “The Alchemist,” passion transmutes one experience into another, if we allow it, until we look back realizing that we have become like gold and that we are living out our Personal Legend.
“Why do they make things so complicated?”
“So that those who have the responsibility for understanding can understand.,” he said. “Imagine if everyone went around transforming lead into gold. Gold would lose its value.”
“It’s those who are persistent, and willing to study things deeply, who achieve the Master Work.”
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
What is the passion behind your writing? Would you go as far as to call it your Personal Legend?