by Roxanne Tellier
Since the end of last year, I’ve been working on a mammoth project that I hope – fingers crossed! – to be ready to launch by the summer. Why is it taking so long, you ask? Why, because it is a multi-pronged, multi-media venture, and I want to get it right before anyone sees the finished product!
I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of my venture, but suffice it to say that I’ve really had fun working that three-year certificate that I took in technical writing and editing. It is standing me in very good stead, since having a firm grounding in research and how to explain things to people who want to learn about things, was the foundation of the course.
Writing courses, teaching people how to use technology or how to work with different media, is harder than you’d think. Most of us have taught someone how to do something; parents teach kids how to cook, make their beds, drive. Artists show students tips and techniques. Musicians have taught learners how to tune their instruments. And it’s great, when you’re one on one, and have a firm grounding in information that you want to pass on to a questing newbie, especially if they’re eager to learn.
But it can be a little more difficult if you’re trying to explain to someone how to use machinery, or how to understand computer code, or how to manipulate a complicated computer program. Especially difficult if you’re trying to explain something completely new and unknown, by writing down every single step necessary to get from A to Z, while bearing in mind that the tyro you’re training is quite likely to find some way to make a mistake that can potentially harm them, the machinery, or the program. That’s the essence of tech writing.
But the fun thing about this kind of writing, once you’ve become skilled at it, is that you can use it to explain how to do just about anything. If you can wrap your head around it, then you can potentially master a subject, and then pass on the knowledge by teaching someone else how to comprehend and utilize that information as well.
I’ve always had an ability to grasp the essence of how things work. I find it easy to learn how to do things that interest me. What I found difficult, prior to my course, was how to walk someone else through all the necessary steps. If you are a quick learner, you tend to glide over the tiny steps that are necessary to complete a project successfully. It’s the reason why so many memes (and columns!) have misspellings, bad grammar, or missing words – our brains charge ahead when we’re eagerly creating, and we see the end product, instead of the nitty gritty that makes up the whole.
Creation is one skill. Editing is another. It’s impossible to do both simultaneously, without sacrificing the niceties of one or the other.
What I’ve found the most interesting about this project, much of which I’ve researched on YouTube and on websites, is how open and giving enthusiastic amateurs can be about sharing information, tips and techniques. Granted, many of the people who are visible on video networks, or who have cobbled together a website that rises to the top of search engines, are people that are not just enthusiastic, and relatively proficient at what they do, but are savvy about self-promotion in the brave new world of the interwebs. I’m not saying that they’re all young and born writing computer code, I’m saying that those who are not, have had the good sense or good fortune to connect with people who can help them frame their work in a way that’s pleasing to people browsing the internet.
As someone who just loves to lose themselves in research, the hardest thing for me is knowing when to stop. Like potato chips, it’s hard to eat just one! Each subject I chose to delve into is fascinating to me. I’m transfixed by those who are artistic and able to create beautiful things from next to nothing. And each time I find someone who takes a basic craft or tool and elevates the project to another level, it’s like Christmas for me. Such a gift they are giving to anyone interested in their métier!
Marketing product in today’s internet world is a complicated thing. While the gatekeepers of the past, those sentries who kept so many from getting product to market, are largely no longer at their posts, the flood of art and craft that flowed into the wide-open web spaces can be overwhelming in scope. Getting your product to the front of the line is nearly impossible. However, there are a few ways that may help in getting your work seen and/or heard by those interested in your particular niche.
To create the skeleton of the project I’ve been working on, I began by internet searches. That led to websites, and videos showcasing a subject. While you can use an SEO (search engine optimizer) to parse the data that shows which sites and video links get the highest amount of hits, I looked for enthusiastic comments and subscriber figures to see which creators best made the casual or dedicated viewer excited and salivating for the next time their idol launched an email or video.
I also spent a lot of time cruising the library data base to find books on the subjects that interested me. Some days I’d be ordering, and then picking up, 15 to 20 books at a time, only to quickly scan the tome, capture any images that inspired, and then return the book to the library, within a few days. Having access to the Toronto Public Library system, whether in person or virtually, is a boon to a researcher.
Once I had the framework for the books and PDFs I wanted to write, I began a deeper dive into branding. That led to another dozen books on creating interest on video sites, and of course, how to tie and cross-merchandise the information on multiple sites. (And don’t even get me started on merchandising! That’s another whole science unto itself!)
In the last few weeks, I’ve been deep diving into books on how to create and market product for the internet, which is where so many now reside. E-books, PDFs, audio books, websites, mailing lists, autoresponders, lead magnets – for me, I’d rather delay launch by getting all of my ducks in a row pre-show, then run aground from a lack of good marketing, losing potential fans and buyers after the fact.
It’s all been a wondrous deep dive into creativity, and my adventures down the rabbit hole would make Alice jealous. Every day I wake eager to learn more, and ready to tackle yet another program that will help me reach my goals. When you’re riding out a global pandemic, having something that keeps you interested without having to deal with other humans, is a very good thing indeed.
I’m nearing the end of the research, and getting ready to plunge into accessing some programs that I hope will increase my reach on the internet. And all of this comes BEFORE actually beginning the creative process of writing the books, which at this point, are merely outlines, copious notes, and chaptered layouts.
Computers and the internet handed us the keys to a universe of information. Everything you could ever want to know is just a few keystrokes away. It’s a cornucopia of delight to me. The least that I can do in return for these gifts is to try to help others to find the same pleasure in learning and creating that I enjoy.
Fingers crossed that I succeed, if only in some small way, in doing so.