By Pam Houghton
Before I became a so-called professional writer, I worked in the corporate world for over 20 years. I started out as a technical editor, which sounds more technical than it really was.
When that gig ended, I transferred to a manufacturing facility and worked in Inventory Control - the ultimate in completely unnecessary paperwork. And micro-management. And total boring-ness.
After that, I moved to Configuration Management. There, we made sure software bills-of-material were properly configured in the database (hopefully, you haven’t dozed off by now) so that orders could be received, manufactured and shipped properly to global customers before we knew the world was flat – or at least before that book was published.
That position went through a few more name changes before I was officially anointed a “manufacturing engineer.” Our boss told us it put us in a higher salary range. Thoughtful of him, but I am no more an engineer-at-heart than I am a fan of Oprah and her gobble-gook on continuous self-improvement. (No offense to the Oprah fans! Really! I hope you keep reading! She’s a hero!)
Anyway, as I sit here day after day, connecting the dots between my old corporate life and my current role as a professional “writah,” here are five ways in which I think engineering is like writing. Really.
1. Jazzed by problem-solving. Engineers love to figure out how stuff works, then take things apart and put them back together when they don't. Don't writers do the same thing when they struggle with a piece that isn't working?Pam Houghton’s features and essays have appeared in local, regional and national publications including the Christian Science Monitor, Metro Parent and Patch. She also maintains a personal blog, Soul Searching at Starbucks. If you would like to see more of Pam’s published works, please visit her website. She is available for features, essays, blog posts, as well as business profiles and marketing communications materials. To contact her directly, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Quality control. Engineers are fascinated by quality - achieving top results using better and more efficient methods after much trial and error. Aren't writers fascinated by quality too? Especially with all the editing and revising that goes on to make a piece as-close-to-perfect as it’s gonna get?
3. Work alone. Engineers aren't afraid to work alone and focus until goals are achieved. Do I really have to spell this one out? Okay. Writers work alone. Until goals are achieved.
4. Independent thinkers. Man, let me tell you, engineers are independent thinkers. They don't care what others think as long as they are confident in the logic of their own thinking. Writers really have to be independent thinkers too and believe in their work, even when others may not like what they write or how they wrote it.
5. Outside-the-box thinking. The best engineers aren't afraid to think outside-the-box, as cliche as that term has become. Writers have to think outside the box too if they are going to become successful even when the odds are stacked against them.
In the unlikely event that you are an engineer-turned-writer, how you do think engineering is like writing?