Environmental Protection for the Tech Writer

I’m not speaking of protecting the environment of planet Earth here (though it usually helps  to keep that in decent shape, too). What concerns me in this entry is the environment within which the writer is expected to write. Every writer has his or her own comfort zone. Different things make different individuals happy: temperature, light level, posture, and perhaps most importantly, noise level.

It is important for employers to respect and supply at least some of that comfort. Otherwise, you can be assured, the writer will take unilateral action. Light too low? The writer will bring in a desk lamp. Air conditioning set at a level certain to chill meat? The writer will bring a space heater. Heat out of control? A fan will appear.

The most important thing an employer should provide is some respect for the writer’s noise/personal space comfort zones. There are moments when it is necessary for an individual to sit behind or beside a writer and go over what’s on the screen, line by line, but those moments are, in this writer’s mind, emergencies. Regardless of the editing circumstances, writing is a mental discipline requiring concentration, and leaders and peers must respect that. If not, the writer will relocate–or create a space sufficiently comfortable that concentration can occur.

Personally, I write best to movie soundtracks (John Williams, James Horner), non-vocal classical music, or opera in a language other than English. What I discovered about my ability to concentrate is that vocal music in English interferes with my focus if I’ve got serious thinking to do. Sometimes I’ll even forego the classical music and settle for dead silence.

Writers don’t mean to be prima donnas, I don’t think. We do work that requires quiet thinking. A comfortable chair helps, as does a computer screen large enough to read clearly. And a respect for the writer’s space.

The good news about the 21st century is that working from home has become a more viable option–and where are we more comfortable than home?–but it is not for everyone. So for those of us for whom working at home is not an option, we must make do with the environment given to us, and we must make it a good one. Kinda like the Earth, come to think of it.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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