14 August 2012

Walking the line

Today has been a strange work day. This is in part because I’ve not had a full night’s sleep in nearly a week on account of becoming a dad. I’ve come to realise that meeting your children either early or late can lead to sleepless nights; whilst waiting till destiny forced me into a deadly light-sabre battle might have been waiting too long, being there at the time of delivery is also quite “epic” in the demands that are placed on a father. In a more ideal world, I think I’d like to meet the child over a cup of something warm (tea, or in his case milk) at a time when no-one is screaming or thinking about using anything sharp on anyone else. That’s not the whole story though, in between the frantic mad dashes to hospital, the sleepless nights, the assembly of nursery furniture – on the subject of technical authoring, the instructions for assembly were very good... and they’ve finally fired the guy at the furniture factory who used to put one extra bolt in the packet just to trigger any latent OCD – not to mention deadlines for various clients there’s been today, which is best described as a “lull”.

This doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. I’ve got Clearly Stated set up with a Facebook presence, and have started teaching myself XML. This means that I’m working on marketing and capacity building. It somehow doesn’t feel enough; maybe that’s because I like measuring my output and it’s far easier to point at a document I’ve written and say, “See, I’ve been working, I wrote that” than it is to say “I learnt stuff” and expect it to be counted. This is a fairly recent development: I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m working in the family business and don’t want to let people down, or because I’m about to be paying a mortgage, but a few years ago the idea of spending an employer’s time reading a book (fiction) and on Facebook (commenting sarcastically on assorted photographs from around the world) seemed like the perfect way to spend my time. Now, even when stuff is most definitely “vocational” and “relevant”, I feel some measure of guilty angst that maybe I’m not getting quite enough done. Hopefully, I don’t become complacent. I feel that part of being professional, and responsible, is having the ability to self-monitor and make sure that the activities we are involved in are in some way relevant to our profession and the job we are asked to do as authors. After all, it is far easier to quickly minimise an inappropriate browser window or leisure-app than it ever was to palm a Steven King novel under a textbook and remain undetected. I think the man in black (the one with the guitar not the light-sabre) would describe this behaviour as “Walking the line”.


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