It’s been a long busy week and I still have the energy to write. It’s been a while since the itch to type down thoughts has happened to me. I know itch sounds like yuck, dafuq is that metaphor, but whatever. I have been back to writing for a living. And I mean it in every sense of the word.
Sometimes I ask myself why I love what I do. And, interestingly, I got asked “why did you become a technical writer”, and I answered the answer that makes me cringe, yet it’s the only honest answer I know—“I love writing.” Yep, I love it more than Jollibee Chicken Joy so issa big deal.
7 years and it still doesn’t feel like it. Technical writing is probably one of the hardest, most underrated jobs there is. We tech writers always suffer the hardship of making people appreciate what we do. There are folks who think they can easily do what we do because, how hard is it to write anyway? Some don’t bother because they think nobody reads the documentation. Most of the time we’re deemed doomed to write boring stuff. And then there’s also the angle of how profitable we really are to a company’s bottom line and so on and so forth.
All these reasons to cast aside the power of a professional documentation artist! Ha, yeah we’re dramatic like that, to be honest. The number of times I watched editors battle it out with engineers because the latter’s draft don’t make sense hence egos walked on, and the painstaking way we try not to offend people that they cannot park the light to explain that a function is supposed to light up a certain way when selected. Good times. Good freaking times.
Tech writing has been an enjoyable experience for me because I get to do two things: write and learn. It’s actually a humbling profession. I can’t call it work nor a job because to me it doesn’t feel like so. I feel like it’s my calling. Yuck, there goes another cheesy line. But I say it’s humbling, at least for me, because I can’t write from my own perspective. It takes empathy. And most of the time, we’re the champion of customers. You don’t write to please your product developers, the marketing folks, not even your manager. You are the voice for people in trouble and on the brink of oh-please-be-covered-in-warranty tears. You need to approach documentation in your customer’s shoes. And your audience don’t care if you’re a Pulitzer prize winner. They just want to friggin know how to connect the goddamn cable to the device’s motherfudging port. And that is probably the mentality they are in when they’re looking at what you wrote. They care not about what Stephen King thinks of you.
And learning, yes. That is key. You can’t write about how something works if you don’t know how it works. And this is where it the great divide happens. This is where you start to think if this profession is your calling or, that’s it, I’m out, turning over a new career leaf. Or leap. Or both. Because you can’t always be writing about using apps on mobile phones. Sometimes, you need to talk about how software works too. The ifs and thens, the parameters and values, the BIOS. Things you didn’t learn at school because you didn’t have a computer science degree. Do you give up? Or do you give in…to the temptation of being a real technical writer? Because your words will only have meaning if you know what you’re talking about. Literally.
So many words. Tech editors would edit the heck out of my words if they can see the chunky paragraphs I wrote. To be honest, my technical editors were my most beloved folks. I am a product of their immense technical craftsmanship, their exacting way of fine tuning my style to lead me back to the company’s style guide. They taught me a lot when it comes to being disciplined and firm—especially with dealing with SMEs, PMs, and RD. They taught me the value of teamwork, of being hungry to learn and adapt, and their friendship is earned by mutual respect and trust, borne out of hard work.
And with that, I end this lengthy post. Cheers to 7 years and counting. And to finally scratching that 7th year writing itch.