Proceed to the Proceedings

(Continued from 5/30, “To The Summit”)

My topic idea had risen from an experience I had at my last contract position. As handouts for discussion, I planned to use materials I’d generated for use at that job. But I hadn’t gotten down to outlining what I wanted to say to introduce the handouts in the session. And you want me to write a paper about it? A paper for a 15-minute session that would hopefully be mostly discussion? It seemed like overkill.

And it seemed a daunting task.

Especially for someone who had not presented at the Summit before, nor presented anywhere on my chosen topic. In other words, it would also be a good exercise for the same reason, I had to admit. It forced me to start preparing for my part. The papers were due in April and it was only February.

But the task seemed like reverse engineering in my case. I imagined that proceedings type papers are typically written first based on some academic or research project, out of which a presentation comes later. From that perspective, it was definitely overkill to manufacture “background” for a short progression topic. I thought that if I stayed true to my topic as I defined it, I’d all but give it away in an effort to write even a page. I started writing a piece to just pique interest for the topic, but I saw that I could easily end up overthinking it and produce something that might be misleading.

In other words, this was work.

I expressed my concerns to the rest of the group who were presenting at the Lone Writer Progression. Most if not all of them had presented progression topics before. The input I got back was indicative of the support that is an inherent part of the Lone Writer SIG and the reason that we are all SIG members.

Fei Min Lorente responded, “I haven’t written a paper for a progression before either, but I figured that I can’t say everything I want to say in 10 or 15 minutes, so this is an opportunity to put everything on paper so they can read it later (or before). I figure that a progression is attractive largely because the attendees want to have a discussion more than listen to the host of the table, so even if I ‘give everything away’, they’ll still want to come and talk about it. Maybe they’ll want to come and tell me why I’m wrong. 🙂 Does this seem like a reasonable approach?”

“That does make sense,” I replied. “It sounds like rather than a ‘paper’, your approach is to provide what you might also use as a handout for real-time discussion? I’m keeping in mind the fact that the proceedings are also for those who can’t attend the progression, so it’s all they will get—especially in the case of the progression format with no session recording or .ppt available later. … Thanks for the reminder that I need to be flexible so the participants feel they’ve had a say.”

Ya gotta love this SIG. It provides the camaraderie and collaboration that writers need when there’s no Tech Com colleague to chat with over the cube wall. The SIG brings “lone” writers together in community so that no one is a-lone when they need the help or advice of another practitioner.

Based on my discussion with the other presenters, I threw out the draft that I’d started for my proceedings paper, which attempted to posit and prove some lofty thesis. I would simply tell the story. The story of how my topic evolved, long before I had any idea that it would end up being a presentation at the STC Summit.

I began by describing the work situation I had experienced, which had prompted me to explore options to address it. I told of the research I’d done on the issue. How had other writers/editors dealt with it? What were their recommendations? (From my research, I had accumulated a number of sources, which I included in my paper as a References list.)

Then I outlined the action items that I decided to pursue to improve the work situation. I described in detail the tangible deliverables I’d created as tools to support my pursuit. Last I focused on discussion of the piece that would be my main handout at the progression.

Done. And it was three pages.

For a little ole progression topic!?

Well, what do you expect when you ask a writer to write?

I sent this draft to the progression moderator, Ed Marshall, to request his review and feedback. He gave me some wonderful suggestions that helped to get my points across more clearly. Another example of the Lone Writer SIG in action.

I had an almost final draft (pending any further inspiration that might come to me) and it was early March. As if on cue, the STC Office sent out the template that we were to use to format our papers for the proceedings document. I still wasn’t employed and STC International Competition judging was about to kick off, so I might as well get the formatting done.

The template allowed for an Abstract summation to introduce the paper. But rather than write an abstract (I thought of my entire paper as an abstract), I used that space to set the stage, present the problem statement, for the work situation that my paper and presentation would address. There. Now I really was done.

At the least, I would have another publication credit to my name. At best, my story might actually offer a suggestion, gel an idea, somehow help a colleague who experienced a similar situation. In short, it was my lone contribution to the Lone Writer SIG in action.

(to be continued)

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