Feeling alone and outside of your comfort zone

Month five of the COVID lockdown, and when it started I picked up a new bit of work. It is something I’d wanted to do and from which I get enjoyment: technical writing. I am definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone. Although I’ve written extensively and am a published author with several titles, the skills of grammar, spelling, and word choice aren’t what I’d describe as my super powers.

The past few weeks have been a bit harder that usual, as I’ve been pushing past the basics, and breaking through the plateau where I felt comfortable and knew what I was doing. It is doubly-hard with COVID lockdown and remote-only work, as none of the avenues I’ve used in the past to vet ideas or check thinking and progress has been easily available to me. At it’s heart, writing is about communicating – and the technical writing I’m doing is aimed at being precise, accurate, concise, and easy to understand. Sometimes I’ve got some gems and it works well. Other times I stare at a single paragraph for the better part of 3 hours, tearing apart the sentences word by word and setting them into the form that I think may work – because I certainly don’t think or speak with that level of simple, direct, and accurate conciseness.

I’m confident I’ll get this, eventually. It will take longer than I’d like to get through the “Man, I suck at this” stage – as it always does when you’re learning something. It feels terrible at the moment. I often feel lost, sometimes confused, and – not surprisingly – frustrated. The constraints are a gift, but I rail at them just the same. It’s awkward and painful, and the assistance I have been able to find from coworkers or my fellow coffee-house peers in bouncing ideas around is gone or greatly reduced.

I’m determined to make something better in this whole mess. One of the few things I can control is what I’m working on, and I have that luxury – so I’m using the current time and constraints to improve myself.

If you’re doing the same, remember that it’s worth acknowledging that this shit ain’t easy, whatever your skill or task may be. If it’s worth improving, then it won’t be – almost by the very nature of it. Doesn’t matter if it’s hand-eye timing coordination and mastery for a video game, learning to paint in a new style, strategic puzzle solving of board games, or learning to set a perfect weld. Keep at it and keep moving, even if it doesn’t always feel like forward motion.