Fear not, I’ll get into practical technical writing matters again soon, but as I’m writing this, I’m still in a philosophical mood. We have many different motivations for getting into the technical writing profession. The important thing is that–whatever your background–you enjoy what you do.
I’ve had friends who have approached the field from fields as diverse as English literature, journalism, history, education, business analysis, and engineering. One thing that should be clear to the technical communicator is that there is no “one path” to the field, and that you can find yourself functioning as one on purpose with a formal education (as I did) or you could be someone who is or was a subject matter expert who suddenly finds yourself documenting something you used to do in the field.
Here’s the thing: regardless of your background, you are not a technical communicator by accident.
This is why: some people are gifted at working with (or understanding) machinery. Others are good at understanding software. Others have a history of telling stories or teaching others. Both of those inclinations are required, however, to communicate about the product to people who did not create it but simply need to use it.
Technical writing, in the end, is about explaining technologies or other difficult subjects in ways that are useful to others. Again, not everyone has that skill. If you’ve found yourself doing it “by accident,” it really is not because someone saw something in you that they felt worth cultivating. And here’s another thing you need to consider: not everyone can do what you do. Some people can tell stories well. Some people understand technology or processes well. Not everyone can tell stories or communicate about technology/processes in a way that others find useful.
So if you find yourself becoming a technical writer “by accident,” take heart and feel proud. The odds are really good that it was not an accident.