Friday, June 03, 2005

Documentation woes

Life has this way of laughing in your face.
It's been more than a month since I started blogging - mostly as a means of sharpening my writing and to keep the creative juices flowing. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I must say I've been impressed with myself - the last two posts being a case in point. I wrote them both on the same day - within an hour of each other.
So, some time back as I was floating on cloud ninety nine - overjoyed at the rediscovery of my writing prowess, I was brought crashing to Earth by a small incident that happened in my office. As my profile says, I'm an Engineer, and my job also involves writing technical documents - usage instructions, design specifications, test reports...I try to make it interesting but at times it gets really irritating, especially when there are stupid standards to follow.
So, this is what happened. A couple of weeks ago, one of the documents that I'd written came up for review:
Boss - "You know, I was reading through this 'thing' that you'd written, and generally wanted to speak with you..."
Me - bracing myself, "Yes sir...", thing???
Boss - "The document by itself is good, I'm not questioning the contents..."
Me - Go on, I can handle this. Deep breath now.
"...but it's the way you''s too ..."
Me - Here it comes...
"...see this..." - he showed me a document a colleague had written - "...this has everything in black and white. Only what needs to be there is there. But yours seems to be..."
Me - "...long winded??...", incredulously.
", no, not long-winded at all..."
Me - phew!!
"...but it's just that you give too much importance to the little things..."
Me - Whaa..., come again?? Isn't that supposed to be good??
"...I mean instead of only the essential being there, you also put in a lot more which are not necessary. I don't want to spend my time looking for the important stuff. I want it to be easily visible...blah...blah...BLAH" - he went on but I had had enough. My 'writer' bubble had just burst. My self-esteem, as an aspiring writer, took a beating. I broke the record for the least time taken to perform a free fall.
In short, what my boss wanted me to do is what I call "bullets writing". You know, use all those stupid bullet points that MS Word offers you, and write documents cynically, without sentences, without neatly laid out paragraphs, just to the point, without life or blood. I felt lost that day. Life had lost its meaning - at least momentarily.
So, from that day, I started writing like 'them' and not like 'me' - the documents, I mean. No adjectives, no beautiful turn of phrases, no imagination, nothing - just plain writing.
And my boss is happy.
And guess what, the colleague - nice chap, I hold nothing against him - whose document my boss had showed me the other day, got pulled up, and was shown one of my 'new' documents as an example of the areas where his documents could improve.
Talk about getting beaten at your own game. Take that!! I could make out what my colleague was thinking when my boss was giving him 'tips' - Life has this way of laughing in your face. Exactly buddy!! Exactly.


Kripa Shankar said...

hahahaha...12 marks..univ exams...just flashed by... i just realized that whatever i wrote, invariably had more bullets and periods than words...LOL!!!

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Ha ha ha...but it a laugh of irony...why in fact I had "almost" a similar experience initially while coding..I was asked to "simplify" my design and coding while I was trying to optimize it...Creativity has become's a sad sad thing in the end you had to conform..and what's worse ur's became a "model" for others!!! Do you see the recursive degradation? Sigh!

musafir said...

@ kripa shankar: Now I realize why you got such good marks!!

@ girish...! : You too? Yes, 'tis sad indeed.