Left brain, right brain, and living life’s purpose

The photograph that changed my life.

My name is Linda McRae.

Who the heck is Linda McRae? That’s me, waving my hand, way over here! Well, that’s who you see, but really, who is Linda McRae? That is what I’m asking myself. Who the heck am I, why am I here, and how did I get here? Hey… don’t you worry, I’m not gonna get all philosophical on you, so please don’t run away. I just wanted to share some details about me with you… about what I do, and why I do it.

In my left brain (which is very strong), I am a technical writer. I write technical manuals for people who work in companies like Bell Canada, Telus, Verizon, or other telecommunication service providers. The technical manuals I write describe one or more teeny tiny software applications that are used in the ginormous networks that provide you and me with our office networks and Internet connections. I’ve been working as a self-employed technical writer since 1991, mostly for Nortel (previously known as Nortel Networks, Northern Telecom, and more, but now financially bankrupt and selling all its assets). The story of how I fell into the career of technical writing is entertaining, involving bean-counting, hard-boiled eggs, and martians. If you’re interested, I may tell you sometime. But the inclination towards this career (which requires dedicated attention to detail) was demonstrated by me at the early age of 8 years old when I overheard my mother talking to her girlfriend about a particular event that occurred around 3:30 in the afternoon. I knew it did not occur at 3:30 in the afternoon, so I piped up and said, no mommy, it happened at 25 minutes after 3! “WHATEVER!” was mommy’s reply. That memory stuck with me and I always wondered why I felt so compelled to correct my mom. Now I know why ….. details must be accurate!

Why do I do technical writing? Because I like it. Because it pays good money. Because it deals with subject matter that is factual, has to be organized, and has to be correct. Good organization and accurate details are obsessions of mine. It doesn’t matter that no one reads my work (that’s what I’m told…. hardly anyone reads the “f n” manuals). I feel a great sense of achievement when I read something I wrote that “I” (with only a grade 12 education and a Certificate of Proficiency in Technical and Professional Writing) can understand. You may think that it is easy to write something that is easy to understand. Not true at all.  It takes many hours of writing, rewriting, chewing of fingernails and pulling of hair before I am truly comfortable with what I have produced. Enough said…. boooorrrrinnnng…

In my right brain (which I always believed is very weak), I am a photographer. I love to take pictures of lots of stuff… flowers, leaves, blades of grass, ants, dragon flies, butterflies, sun, moon, clouds, trees, lakes, rivers, streams, racing vehicles, running dogs, feathers, food, cups, old buildings, reflections, antiques…. whatever catches my attention at any given moment. Then from those pictures, I love to create fine works of art in the form of matted and framed prints, canvases, bookmarks, note cards and whatever else I’m inspired to create. 

How did I get into photography? Well… one day in 2001, I woke up and suddenly decided I wanted to buy a digital camera. I wanted to use the digital camera in my technical writing work – to take it into the technical lab to photograph the computer hardware I was asked to take apart and put back together for an installation manual I was writing for voice messaging software. (Have you heard of CallPilot, the answering system used in many business offices? I was one of many many technical writers who wrote manuals for CallPilot.) The camera I chose to purchase, after hours and hours of agonizing research was the FujiFilm F601 Zoom, a little compact silver jobby that would fit in my jeans pocket. I bought it on ebay. It arrived a week later, and I took it outside to test it on my flower garden. And later that night, my life changed forever when my partner looked at my printed photos and told me I have a good eye. 2 years later, my CallPilot project contract ended and I was “in between projects” for 6 months or more. So I turned my attention to selling my photography work at flea markets and craft shows, to keep myself busy. Any income is better than none. 

Well….. I got another technical writing assignment, followed by another, followed by another again. Which was good, because selling photography is very hard work, and it does not pay very well. And it is expensive to produce – frames, mats, backings, paper, canvas, ink, computers, laptops, hard drives, monitors, calibration devices, printers, new camera, new (used) lenses, memory cards, CDs, batteries, tripods, monopods, camera bags, gasoline for photo outings and more ….  have all contributed to just about breaking my pocket book. But I love it when people say they love my work, and many people do say so. And a few do buy.

 Am I living my life’s purpose? I have struggled with that question. I have been told that I am. And I’m starting to believe that I am. In technical writing, I provide a service to all of you in a very indirect way by providing the documentation that your Internet service provider needs in order to configure and use the hardware and software that provides the Internet service you and I are using to read this article. Holy cow – is that a full circle? In photography, I satisfy my own desire to be creative, and in doing that and making my work visible to you, I bring beauty into your world. Without the beauty created by all hard-working (and starving) artists, your indoor world would be very bleak-looking indeed. And when you express your appreciation for my work, I feel happy. My Aunt Hilda told me last year: your only purpose in life is to make yourself happy.  How simple is that?

When I look back over my life, I recognize many little milestones that all pointed to where I am now. Such as in 1995, when I suddenly started buying little picture frames because I wanted to create and sell small framed prints at a garage sale I was planning to have. I was also collecting certain types of greeting cards, which I intended to put into those frames. Now who would have guessed that that was an early pointer to me selling my framed photography work now? WOW! What an AHA that is for me!

Did I just puke? (see my previous post) Egads… I didn’t mean to. In future articles, I plan to share more details with you about my struggles and triumphs as a photographer/artist. That’s what I want to be now, a full-time self-supporting photographer/artist. My right brain wants more control. Left brain….. back off… it’s time for you to take a break.

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