Too Much is Just That
Like we shouldn't say everything that's in your head or take a picture of every experience, unfortunately in our time, too many do so, we shouldn't write everything that comes to mind. We shouldn't. But, too many do so.
The problem in our day isn't the lack of content but the overabundance of it. A lot of stuff out there is crap or worse. So rather than getting a lot of good content, we get a lot that's empty, flaky, or downright fake. (The last point I'm referring to things that should be non-fiction but turn out to be fantasy).
This kind of content is like over-processed food to the mind.
Like those who suffer from health problems from over-processed food, our minds, emotions, and souls suffer from over-processed content.
How does reading another article on something trival help enrich you or someone else? Or is it just something that fills time, while you're scrolling through your phone or flipping through a magazine waiting? How about reading content that's says it's true but turns out to be based on half-truths or lies? How does that help?
It's About Prudence
When you write, I believe prudence is key.
If you're working on a project that's sunk in the muck and mire because you're neither equipped to handle or there's absolutely no direction, you could be wasting your time and energy. You're defeating the purpose as a writer by not focusing on projects you can do better with less effort. (Trudging through the slog of writing is okay, but to be stuck completely and it gets worse the more you try is not.)
Dose of Realism
While as a writer, you should strive to grow and expand your abilities and horizons, we also need to be realistic and humble. We need to be aware of our limitations.
Before we commit to writing something, we need to ourselves some questions:
- Do I have the ability or time to do this?
- Do I really know about the subject I want to write about?
- Is this helpful to others?
- Is this a good use of my time?
- Am I filling a need?
- Is there someone else who has already done a great job or can do a better job than me?
- Is this about my ego?
The world is big enough for all kinds of writers. So, why not give others their due and find the area you can write about and excel there.
Writing is a balancing act. If we want to be good at this craft, we need to also learn to discern whether to create something or just defer it off to others. Only you can truly answer where that line is. (But if it's solely about ego, don't write it.)
What about Technical Writing
So, what does this have to do with technical writing? Much in every way. While we should document everything, especially if the intended audience needs it, there's also over-documentation.
(As a technical writer, I don't determine what gets written, the organization does. I may give my thoughts on what should happen. But, I don't get a final say.)
Over-documentation can be confusing and overwhelming to your audience.
Who wants to read through reams or scroll through reams of information to get what you're looking for? I know I don't.
I believe in documenting every crucial piece of information of a product or service. But if we write about every detail or variable about a product or service, we risk getting the customer lost, where they may miss what's important to understand on how to use something.
For example, let's say you want someone to choose option Y after selecting option X. But then you go on and on about why this choose option Y. Then, the mindset of creating these two options. Who cares! You just tell them "Once you select option X, choose option Y." The other stuff should go in a white paper or some marketing copy. Instructing someone how to do something should be focused on taking someone through the steps till they're done.
In some cases, over-documentation can be condescending and you risk losing the audience you're trying to reaching. You wouldn't tell someone how to turn on a computer if you're telling how to use a certain software. The assumption is they know how to turn a machine. You're simply there to walk them through on how to use the software. If they don't know how to use a computer, then it does no good to explain a particular software.
Look At Design
If you look at what people in User Experience (UX) do, they strive to create something that's intuitive. The idea is where someone can pick up something and use it right away, so there would be no need to explain how through documentation.
But, not everyone is at the same level. And that's fine. I believe this is where technical writing can help UX.
If we create products and services that are friendly and easy to use and understand, then we only need to create minimal documentation. We should document where it counts. And when we do, we should create documentation that's intuitive and easy to follow.
Writing with Focus
If we focus on writing we can do and what's needed, I believe we'll have better and smarter content. Fewer but better content. We can even apply this to writing opportunities. Not all will fit your abilities, so pick the ones you can excel at and go from there.
I know I can't write everything or about everything. And I'm okay with that.