Are You Really Doing “Heroic” Technical Writing?

It occurs to me as I get older that I’ve made my career doing rather boring, out-of-the-way, bureaucratic work: answering complaint letters, developing internal training programs, developing spreadsheets, writing proposals, editing engineering reports, and so forth. None of those are exactly cutting-edge, thrilling things. However, I have a different spin on such things. “Heroic” isn’t just the task/quest, but the work and attitude you put into it.

Did You Get Into This Business for Fame?

Most of my professional work is anonymous or written under another person’s (or an organization’s) name. Occasionally I get a byline or a thank-you in the acknowledgements, and such things suit me just fine. I am not writing life-changing policy, snappy TV show dialogue, or eye-catching, clever advertising copy–things most people would have heard or read in their daily lives.

And yet: you’ve heard of Disney, right? The U.S. Department of Defense? NASA? Nissan/Infiniti? Maybe even the Science Cheerleaders? I have gotten the jobs or customers I wanted, working on content that interested me. Mind you, a lot of the content I write or edit is internal to those organizations. And some of it can be a bit sleep-inducing to some (ever read a Systems Engineering Management Plan or Concept of Operations (CONOPS) document)? “Page turners they were not,” as Yoda put it in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However: these sorts of documents describe how a commercial space company or agency runs its organization or puts its rockets/spacecraft into action.

I am interested in how systems and hardware work. I want to work on things that are actually being designed, built, and used. That’s about as close as I’m likely to get to being an engineer, and that suits me just fine. I’m learning how things are actually done, and I don’t have to do any math.

I’m also living where I want (Florida) and how I want (freelance, working from home). Boring? Hardly.

“Heroic” is a state of mind as much as a set of actions. When I’m reviewing internal documents, I’m making certain that they make sense to me. And since I’m a pretty direct sort of person, if I get it, someone else probably will. I spend my time ensuring that my employer is communicating with clarity, ethics, and success. If I find something I don’t understand or find “off,” I make certain someone knows. I believe, in short, that my opinions and input matter. If that makes me a well-adjusted bureaucrat, I’m okay with that. My introverted self isn’t out to run the organization, design the spacecraft, or stand on stage when the big announcement is made. I’m fine being part of that anonymous team that did his small part and I know what contribution(s) I made. As a bonus, I’m usually contributing to something I believe in and want to succeed.

Heroics need not be out in public or particularly dramatic. However, if you set yourself challenging goals and achieve them, you’re the hero of your own life story, going where you want to go. Hurray for you!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
This entry was posted in business writing, careers, documentation, editing, freelancing, personal, philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are You Really Doing “Heroic” Technical Writing?

  1. hanowickaHana says:

    Great thoughts! I really appreciate reading what you can do with your work just by reframing how you see it. Sometimes it is hard to find joy in everyday worklife, but it is important to remember about the big picture. I am saving it for “dark moments” when monotonous tasks will pile up (and I know they will ;)).

  2. Pingback: Are You Really Doing “Heroic” Technical Writing? A Summary | Technical Writing and Editing

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