Reality Check

17Dec09

Today’s post on the blog “On Writing Well” gives a rude awakening to aspiring technical writers or junior technical writers (like myself).

The phrase that stuck with me the most:

Merely documenting procedures is NOT technical writing.

You know what? He’s right. 

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a technical writer. When they give me that all-too-familiar blank stare, I explain that I write procedures and Web content and other things to make sure my customers do their work safely and legally.

Most of the time they respond, “Oh I’ve written procedures before. I can be a technical writer! Are you hiring?” *facepalm*

I used to think that because I wrote procedure manuals for my jobs in college that I indeed was already a technical writer. I’ve only been doing this for a few years, but many times I smile at my fresh-faced naïvité. Some days I wonder how hard I’ll be laughing at myself in five years.

The writer of this post gives sound advice that may be a little hard to take. If you don’t like reading boring technical documents, dealing with really busy weeks (or months) and really slow weeks (or months), and interviewing the experts (who can be arrogant, pushy, and sometimes downright mean), then this profession is not for you.

They don’t talk about this in your theory classes. In fact, many of my professors never had to deal with the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty aspects of technical writing. They never had to go through a year’s worth of writing and then only get a few thank you’s and a “small token of appreciation” but in the end realize that it doesn’t matter because they love what they do.

And I love what I do. I may not be the best at it. I may not be up-to-date with all the single sourcing and e-booking out there, but taking complex information and turning it into something usable and readable is a challenge I really enjoy.

Keep writing and take care,

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