It was Never Only About the Writing

I’ve never considered myself a writer; my professional passion is about manufacturing—how things work, how things are made and learning from the people who make that happen. 


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When people ask me what I do, I respond simply that I am a writer. I’ve learned to use this response because a more elaborate explanation would just bore and confuse.

But the truth is, I’ve never considered myself a writer, at least not in the sense of writing being a passion of mine. My professional passion is about manufacturing—how things work, how things are made and learning from the people who make that happen. 

Technical writing has been the means with which I was able to convert my passion into a way to make a living. For me the writing is the work, while the learning is the reward. It’s not disingenuous. Once I see and understand how something works or how this part or that is made I’m happy. I earn my pay when I have to write about it. In that regard, I’ve never been a typical editor.  

Many of my colleagues are bona fide writers. Some of them would write regardless of the subject matter because they are writers first. Acquiring the subject matter, getting their heads around the ways and means of manufacturing is the work. Getting to write about it is the reward. That’s not disparaging; it’s just another way to get the job done.  

For me, though, the rewards of being allowed to pursue my passion far outweigh the work involved in my writing about it. In spite of its secondary place in my list of favorite things to do at work, I’m told my writing is pretty good—well, good enough at least to keep my job as an editor for 27 years, so I could raise and educate four wonderful children and, with the help of my wife of 39 years, provide comfortably for us all.

I do feel very lucky that my technical writing is good enough to allow me to have access to my real passion—learning about manufacturing. Pursuit of that passion has led me to travel to places that as a kid growing up in West Virginia, I could never have imagined visiting.

Travel has taken up a large percentage of time in my career. Happily, my company has always believed that “showing up” is important. My work has taken me to 45 states and 20 countries many times.

I have been blessed to literally see the world of manufacturing, meet a virtual United Nations of people with a common interest, and report on what I saw and learned in articles and, lately, digital channels such as social media. I have seen the changes in the medium, that is, how the message is delivered, but so far the message remains intact.

I believe we act as our reader’s proxy by uncovering then reporting about developments that have the potential to impact manufacturers of precision machined parts. Likewise, we provide a platform for the manufacturers to tell our readership about their developments. Production Machining’s mission is to provide a neutral forum that brings buyers and sellers of manufacturing technology together to the benefit of both.

I started as an editor in 1992. By 2001, it was my belief that the then-called screw machine industry was underserved by the trade press. After nine years covering the screw machine industry for Modern Machine Shop, which devoted one issue per year to it, I believed that industry was worthy of more dedicated attention. In January 2001 we launched Production Machining to devote 12 monthly issues to it.

The timing was good because the industry was transitioning from automatic cam machines to CNC. In a nutshell, the industry was morphing from screw machining to precision machined parts manufacturing. There was a lot to talk about it then and, it turns out, there still is.

As I begin my slide into retirement, I close this final column with my thanks for the readers, advertisers, partners and friends who have supported this magazine through the years. We’ve shared good times and less good times, but we’ve always shared the belief that manufacturing is noble, worthy, interesting, rewarding and economically vital. 

In January, my “wing man” for 14 years, Chris Felix, will take over this space in the magazine as its second editor in chief. His qualifications are sterling, and he has paid his dues. His column is called My Turn and it is indeed.

So I invoke the old printer’s mark for end of copy, the last, the end.  -30-