What makes you want to be a technical writer?
I recently saw a (rather poorly written) post on this very topic. It’s not a big mystery, why people go into technical writing, and yet I see posts that are similar to this all the time.
Oooh, why would you go into technical writing? It seems boring. Isn’t it dry? You seem so creative. You should write poetry. Don’t you write fiction, too? The answers are pure, they are simple; they are common. Anyone who varies too greatly from these is either naïve or lying.
- I am a technical writer because the job is fairly secure. While the world of creative writing is fun and soul-filling, it is as secure as acting or ballet. There is no guarantee of a paycheck next week in the creative and performing arts. So, while my BA is indeed in creative writing, and I think I am fully capable of writing the Great American novel, I am just a tiny bit risk-averse. My MA is in Rhetoric. So, I ply my trade week in and week out by putting as much creative spin as my company allows on the technical prose of mainframe computing. In my extra time, I blog. I write flowery emails. There you have it. Technical writing pays the bills. It allows me to be a professional. Mystery solved.
- I am interested in the field. Let’s face it, even if I believed and professed all of the things I’ve written above with my whole heart, if I lacked interest and acumen in technology, I could not write about it. I’m fairly certain that the greatest poets in the world could not be successful technical writers, because they lack an interest in what I do. One of the things that I believe landed me this job was the ability to discuss, articulately, topics like the internet of things, chunking, and what I would do if I simply did not understand how a software program works. I conversed in SMEs and design documents fluently enough that my interviewers saw that I was willing to work through problems and learn new systems. I don’t know if Salinger did that.
- I get to work with incredibly smart people. Sure, you could hear this in more fields than just technology, but this is especially true in technology. Many of the brightest minds work in tech fields, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. There are smart people working in real estate, hospitality, landscaping and a host of other fields, of course, and I am not set to disparage those careers in any way. But technology is a rapidly-expanding territory, which leads me to the last criteria for what makes me enjoy this field tremendously.
- I get to shape the language that shapes the things you use and buy and implement. I have insider information about the waves of the future. That new app? I get to hear about it early. The Internet of Things? That’s in my house. Indeed, I already turn my lights on with my cell phone, unlock my doors with an app, I use the internet to bank, heat my home and order food. I research driverless cars and automated delivery systems. But it’s not just toys and games. I learn about how medicine interfaces with human-computer interaction and how we are learning to send information instantaneously across continents. I design documents that can be read by machines and how diagrams can be interpreted in multiple languages and translated for those without sight. Some of this is job, and some of this is just fun for me.
I hope to integrate word strings so that one day a computer can do my job – the typing, not the thinking.
I am still very much an artist in the poetics and fiction and creativity department. I enjoy the artistry of the well-told tale, and I’ll never cancel my subscription to the New Yorker, trust me. But when you examine a vitamin bottle, or tap the box on the screen at the ATM, keep a fond place for me in your heart, because odds are a chum of mine – known or unknown – drafted that prose. Demonstrating skill in the world of tech doc is a pretty fun gig when it comes right down to it. And you probably couldn’t install that version of your newest software if it wasn’t for a girl like me.