Search This Blog

Monday, January 30, 2023

We'll Hang up Our Pens Someday

Recently, Pat Buchanan said he was retiring his long running column. This blog is beyond the scope of politics, so I'm not interested in discussing Pat's stances one way or the other. I'm interested in this angle: We writers, regardless of our stripes, will someday hung up our pens. 

We will someday write the last book, last blog, last technical documentation, the last copy, the last whatever we do. We will all someday write our last word. 

If you say, I'm not hanging up my pen ever, well you don't have a choice. There might come a day where you're no longer able to write or you'll draw your last breath. In any case, you'll be hanging up your pen.

The reality is our writing pursuits and career have an expiration date. But we don't have to dread this impending end. If anything, it should give us more focus to write, since we only have so much time. One thing we can stop because it's an emotional waste of time is self-wallowing. You never be good as any other writer because you can't. All of us are different. Comparing each other doesn't go anywhere. So, don't do it! Also, if you keep talking about writing but don't write, then you need to make a decision. Is writing important to you? If so, write. If not, move on to something else. Writing isn't a glamorous pursuit. It's a hard road. To me, for now, it's worth it.

Finally, when we write we need to decide why we are writing. What's our focus and why. What's your passion? For me, I like technical writing because I like to help others and I want to bring glory to God through it. I'm planning to do this until God calls me to do otherwise, He returns, or I draw my last breath. While I still can, I want create the best documentation that I know how. 

So, write while you still can and know why you do it. We'll all have to hung up our pens, so make it count. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Technical Writing Isn't Boring

I once saw a movie where an editor insulted a writer over her manuscript for a book and said she needed to write user manuals. I was incensed when I saw that and jeered at the editor. (Maybe I'm exaggerating but I did say "excuse me?" at the character.) 

It's funny because that actually happened to me in a previous writing life as a journalist, where an editor told me that I was better off as a technical writer.

Whether it's in movies or in real life, there seems to be a sentiment that technical writing is boring. It's sleepy. It's dull. It's lifeless. Really?! 

How's it boring when you get a chance to always learn something new, whether it's entirely new product or an update? How's it boring when you can get a chance to write for different industries or subjects? One of the benefits of technical writing is you can always expand your knowledge base.  Boring is if your mind is stagnant.

How's it boring that you get help people through your writing? You can get a sense of fulfillment knowing that you helped someone accomplish a new task. 

If you write documentation just right, it can be like one of those videogame walkthroughs. The genius of a walkthrough is that you get to go on a journey through the videogame and the purpose is that you help someone through the game. It's the same with documentation, just without the commentary or shouting. Taking someone on a journey explaining a product or service might be draining but not boring. Boring is just remaining on Step 1. Technical writing takes steps 1,2,3, and beyond till the end.

How's it boring when you can meet different Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to help you get the technical information you need to write the documentation? Boring is when you completely rely on own imagination, thoughts, and view. Your writing can get pretty stale, pretty fast, so it becomes boring. 

I met SMEs from across the globe and from all walks of life. Their takes on things and their knowledge has always helped me. The documentation usually turns out better than I could imagine, even if I couldn't see it at the time I was creating a document. Why? Collaboration is what can give technical writing life. 

And if you write in active voice and clear and concise prose, it's anything but lifeless. Passive voice and verbose sentences are the bane of technical writing. They not only confuse and muddle but are lethargic and vapid. So we need inject the syntax with active, concise language to bring life to documentation. 

Clear information isn't boring. Boring is stuffy text, pontificating or rambling on to whatever it was about. And you get lost what we're reading, or in my case, you just fall asleep.

Writing documentation like a flowing river won't put your reader or you to sleep like a meandering creek might. 

Well, maybe a white paper on some theoretical concepts might put me sleep. But for others this keeps them up all night. You can have white papers that are engaging reads.

Technical writing can be hard, frustrating, draining. Boring? Don't think so.