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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bittersweetness of Finishing

Whenever I finish something, especially when it was a difficult journey to get it done, I get a sense of satisfaction that I finished what I started. It's even more rewarding when the purpose of what I worked on will help others. It feels good.

But I can also get a sense of sadness when it's over. If I enjoyed working with others to finish a document, I can get sad that I'll never worked with or see them again, at least not in this life. 

Finishing something is bittersweet. But that's way it goes with all things writing. All documents, books, projects, contracts, and even jobs must come to an end. Every written work and what surrounds it must have a beginning, middle, and end. That's how it goes. I'm okay with it. I actually look forward to ending a work. But there's a sting to it, especially if you don't know if there's anything after it.  

But, bittersweetness can go both directions. You don't have to end the sweetness of finishing with a bitter taste. It can also go this way: There may be a bitter taste at first when you end something, but there's also a sweetness, sprinkled with scariness too, on what happens next.  A sweetness to writing new things, working with new people, and an opening to new opportunities and possibilities. It can be scary and unsettling but also sweet and exciting.

You can't taste what's sweet unless you can also taste what's bitter. So let me close with this apropos scripture:


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Ask Two Questions, Maybe Three

When you create a document, you need to ask two, maybe three questions. But at least, you need to ask two. So what these questions? They are:

- What is this thing I'm writing about?
- Who is the audience I'm writing for?
- What kind of document am I writing?

Why does it seem I waffle between two or three initial questions? Well, you may not need to ask the third question because it may come up naturally in your conversations with the SME(s).  Only ask the last question if you need to. Otherwise, the SME(s) may lose confidence in your ability as a technical writer.

But the first two questions, you should definitely ask when creating documents, especially if you're in a new setting. So why these two questions? Well, these two questions will help set the direction of your documentation. 

If you know what you're writing about and who you're writing for, it'll help you know what kind information to write in your document. Let's say you're writing a user guide on how to use a software for storing recipes and your audience are home cooks and chefs, you're not going explain the technical inner workings of the application. You're just going to show them step-by-step how to enter and save their recipes. That's it. 

When we approach documentation, we should take Mark Twain's advice when writing good stories. He said:

"A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it."

So, let's focus on what to write and chisel out the rest. Our audience deserves it.