What the hell am I doing?

Writers often find themselves in the position of learning new stuff. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve said, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” Or “I’m in over my head this time.” People who hire writers think we have magical powers to absorb industry lingo, technical data and politics and deliver dynamic, clear copy.

Yeah, maybe.

This was especially true when I freelanced for the telecom industry and had editorial dominion over a “resystemization newsletter”; the company was retooling all its software for the year 2000 and I got to write about it. And write about it. And write about it. Here’s a sample of my work: “When an application enters beta testing, it is tested in a controlled lab environment where software, hardware connections, database interfaces, hands-on user performance and developer trouble-shooting are tested together. During system integration testing, the application is stress tested and checked for overall system compatibility.”

 I wanted to disembowel myself.

I recently wrote about a military family where I got completely flumoxed by the 21st battalion air squad this or the 101st brigade and division that and is a major a bigger deal than a captain—I should’ve remembered from “MASH,” huh?—and is Tikrit south of Mosul which is North of Baghdad and is it Ali al something air base in Iraq or Kuwait and let’s not even discuss the acronyms.

So now I want to design a sweater or two and have no idea where to begin. I love the Knitware software, but really need to figure out how to do it more organically. Is every set-in sleeve same? Surely not, that would be too easy. And how do necklines change if an armpit changes? Do you just measure old sweaters and do the math? And how do you handle sizing? And where does one go to learn? Then how do you “draw” schematics electronically? Does Microsoft Publisher do that?

Anyway, just askin’, 'cause I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Comments (7) -

January 16. 2007 02:04


that is one of those things I love about learning... and hate at the same time.
but if it helps, you aren't alone. I dont know what the hell I am doing either Smile

stinkerbell |

January 16. 2007 04:36


This happens to me every time I get a writing assignment...I have a love-hate relationship with that part of it. The performance anxiety nightmares are the worst. Somehow, though, if you kind of close your eyes a bit and pretend that lalalalalathisisnotsobad, eventually, you end up on the other side knowing, somewhat, what the hell you are doing.

The armpit math? Been wondering the same thing. Cool that you're diving into the breach, as it were, to figure it out.

Lee Ann |

January 16. 2007 06:07


Have no expectations, you will not be disappointed.

Pam |

January 16. 2007 09:36


Good questions. One of the reasons I don't like sweater-drafting software is that it decides, for example, how deep a V neckline is going to be. Heck, I like to decide that for myself!

Best resource I know for this stuff is out of print, but I'm sure Denver Public Library has a copy. Okay, that's WEIRD. DPL doesn't. But you could request a copy through Prospector from JeffCo or li'l ol' Fort Collins. (Not so little, but definitely not Denver.) Some folks might be intimidated by it, but you wouldn't be. Great fun. Just don't try to comprehend the whole thing at once. Pick and choose what you want. There's some back-and-forth to get the sweater you want (because of all the alternatives), but it's SOOOO worthwhile.

While I was editing the book, in the dark ages, I tested it out by knitting a sweater. I took measurements for the recipient. The results I came up with produced numbers that weren't like the average sweater. I figured, "This is a test. I'll see what happens."

It didn't fit the recipient like the average sweater. It fitted perfectly.

Did I mention it was part of her wedding raiment? Along with a silk skirt. It was fantastic.

A thought. More info than you need (more than anyone needs at one time), but you don't need to look at it all at once.

Deborah Robson |

January 16. 2007 09:53


Deb Robson:  What book are you TALKING about?  You completely have me sold on finding a copy of whatever in your last post, but I can't see the book name.  Don't tease us!

Antikathy |

January 16. 2007 15:40


I so wish I could help. All I can say is that your article in VK was terrific and I have no doubt that this assignment will be stellar as well.

jenifleur |

June 29. 2007 12:15



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