Name: Paul Chin
Joined PWAC: March 2007
Why did you join PWAC?
I was a software developer in the corporate world for about 10 years and grew accustomed to working in groups. There was a lot of talking and brainstorming before I started a project; all that changed when I got into full-time writing. But, unlike some writers, the solitude of working as a freelancer never bothered me. I joined PWAC because what I did miss from my former life was having like-minded people that I can relate to and bounce ideas off of—also because people stare at me when I talk to my neighbour’s garden gnome.
What kind of writing do you do, and who have your written for?
I write mostly about general technology issues, digital security, digital communications and media, Web design, and software development. I’ve written for Dynamic Graphics Magazine (US), Intranet Journal (US), Enterprise Information (UK), CorporateWebsite.com (Netherlands), CAPITAL (Dubai), Intranet Corner (Canada). I contributed chapters to the books Disaster Recovery Planning and E-Work Architect. I’ve also done some corporate copywriting and speechwriting. I’m currently trying to land columns in several other publications that I’d rather not mention for fear of putting the kibosh on the deals.
What was the first piece of paid writing you published?
I was a staff writer at a company that specialized in competitive intelligence. I kicked off my column with a story called “(Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About IT But Were Afraid to Ask”. Working as a staff writer helped me build up a portfolio that made my transition to the freelance world a lot easier.
What made you want to be a writer?
I’ve been writing—and wanted to be a professional writer—as far back as I can remember, evidenced by a “When I grow up I want to be a writer” essay I wrote when I was in elementary school. But growing up, the idea of becoming a professional writer—and actually making a living out of it—seemed like such an unreachable goal. I had quixotic images of brooding in dark corners of smoky cafes with my fellow misanthropes, adorned in a black turtleneck and beret. It was all so far-out. Plus, I hate the way berets flatten my hair. But during my stint in the corporate cube farms, I discovered that many of my colleagues and users often saved the e-mails I wrote not only for informational purposes, but also for entertainment value. That’s when I knew I had a chance to become a professional writer.
What qualities do you look for in an editor/client?
Professionalism and a sense of humour. I’ve worked with plenty of people who are very professional and all business, seemingly hatched from the Bureau of Productive Productiveness. It’s so monotonous having to work with people who don’t know how to laugh. If I were only interested in working with those who did their job and nothing else, I’d work with my toaster—at least it feeds me.
What’s the best piece of writing advice anyone has given you/that you want to pass on?
The best piece of advice I want give: Be fearless. We all want to be liked, but you can’t allow the fear of criticism to affect your writing process. Don’t worry about how readers will react to what you write; write for yourself. Use your own instincts and judgement, and never allow that dubious voice in your head that asks, “How will people react if I write this?” to push you around. The moment you allow others to dictate what you write, or how you write, you take on the collective voice of your readers and lose your own.
Who are your favourite writers?
I read books, not authors. I rarely read a book simply because it’s written by a specific author. Some books that have left a big impression on me: Steppenwolf (Hesse), The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov), Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky), The Trial (Kafka), The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Eggers), Bones of the Master (Crane).
You can’t write without your…
Aside from my tools of the trade—computer, Internet, telephone, reference books—I can’t write (or function as a responsible member of society) without my first cup of coffee in the morning.
If you weren’t a writer, you’d be…
An unemployed writer! Even if I didn’t write professionally, I’d be wandering city streets, mountain passes, and open steppes with a notebook and pen. I’m also an ardent runner, hiker, and cyclist, so maybe I’d try my hand at being an adventure guide. Unfortunately, I have a frighteningly poor sense of direction, so it may be more adventure than people bargained for.