Okay, this post might be a little more lofty than some of the others, but there is a point to this, and I’m here to write about the philosophy of technical writing, not always the technical matters. What exactly do I mean by technical writing as a “calling,” and do I actually believe in such a thing? To answer the last question first, the answer is yes.
I don’t expect everyone who’s a technical writer to be as passionate about the discipline as I am. I landed on this career in my late 20s, when I realized in a career planning class that it was possible to combine what I was interested in doing (space, science, technology) with what I was actually good at doing (writing). This was a major deal for me at the time, as I wasn’t quite sure “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Technical writing seemed to hit that sweet spot. Upon understanding how the job could fulfill a lot of personal interests and yearnings, I went on to pursue a master’s degree in the field, and voilà! I had a line of work that could keep me entertained for years on end.
What does being a technical writer mean to me? I suppose it helps to explain what sort of career I was looking for at the time:
- Continuous learning.
- Technical, difficult content (in my particular case, I favored space exploration).
- An audience that needed to understand information clearly.
- Work that required me to write daily, as clearly and simply as possible.
- A line of work that required not just technical correctness in the writing but work that advanced a good cause ethically.
In the church, when you receive a “calling,” it usually means you are called–by a congregation, spiritual order, or the Deity–to perform specific work. You don’t end up doing strategic communication for the space business by accident. I aimed at it very clearly because I believed (and still believe) that this is the sort of work I was meant to do. Again, do I expect everyone to be as passionate about this sort of work as I am? Not at all. But when I speak of “heroic” technical writing, there’s a reason for it. I believe that technical writing is my way of doing good works in the world, albeit in a sit-in-front-of-a-keyboard variety.
Is the job perfect? No. Am I perfect at what I do? That’d also be a no. Am I happy every day? No, but so what? Every day I get up and I know what I’m doing and why. Sometimes that’s enough. And as the old commercials used to say, it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. Pick your own adventure consciously!
Reblogged this on Ars Arcanum and commented:
When people ask me what it means to be a technical writer, or even what they do, I think I’ll just redirect them to this excellent summary.