Comparing Creative Writing with Technical Writing (2 min Videocast)

I decided to record a short two-minute videocast to try out my new Kodak zi8 pocket camcorder. In this videocast, I share a brief thought about the similarity between creative writing and technical writing.

[youtube yZASKM-tGr8]

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, JavaScript, front-end design, content strategy, Jekyll, and more. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

  • Steve Krause

    I like your thoughts here, and I think you have a whole new genre: the 2 minute videocast! I even like you getting into and out of the chair as a framing device….

    • Tom Johnson

      Thanks Steve. I might start a series of 2 minute videocasts on this topic. Your encouragement has inspired me.

  • Chris McQueen

    Really nice.

    It’s interesting; you could have told the exact same story and shared the same thought in a couple paragraphs, but I would have glanced through the post quickly and wouldn’t have received the same level of attachment to the message. In fact, if this had been a written post, I probably would have wondered why you didn’t go into addition examples and provide more structure around your thought.

    There seems to be something about seeing a person with a face and mannerisms that provides interest and structure to a thought.

    • Tom Johnson

      I agree with you, Chris. I’m thinking back to your tips video. It’s really fun to see a real person talking. Perhaps the video helps us feel more connected to the people we read and interact with online.

  • Sita Bhatt

    Mini camcorder – mini videocast – great format! Should the name of this post be “Comparing Fiction Writing with Technical Writing” ’cause creative writing has a lot more in its repertoire than just fiction writing :)

    • Tom Johnson

      You’re right. That was my initial title — fiction writing rather than creative writing. I can’t remember why I broadened it.

  • Blank Writing Journals

    Great indeed. It redefined writing and blogging here. 😉
    It is indeed more interesting seeing somebody deliver her/his thoughts than reading, though i still love reading.
    I would also like to agree to Sita. Creative writing is indeed not just creative writing. It involves many forms and genres.
    Nevertheless, i congratulates you.

    • Tom Johnson

      I wonder if it’s only interesting to see someone deliver his or her thoughts in video because of the novelty. If I always delivered my content this way, it might tire you. I am thinking of starting a video series on this theme, though. So we might get to see.

  • Joe Medley

    Great post. This is an issue I’ve thought about myself.

    Another area of overlap between fiction and technical writer is the dimension of time. To illustrate what I mean by this, imagine writing a book or short story the way non-writers (and many technical writers) so often want to organize user assistance. All of the information about particular characters would be grouped in one place. This approach would produce a book that no one would read. (Some master of the craft has no doubt written a book this way. That doesn’t mean it’s a good approach.) The questions the fiction writer always has to ask is what does the reader need to know and when does he or she need to know it?

    Too many technical writing projects end with the first question. But the second is just as important. Sometimes the answer to the second question leads you to place information in places that would seem to make no sense if you only think of the first question.

    • Tom Johnson

      That’s an interesting point. I hadn’t considered it. So you’re saying that technical documentation needs to consider what the user needs to know at appropriate points in time? For example, at the beginning of your documenttion, you explain baby steps, and then you proceed into more advanced material? Makes sense.

      The only problem with the comparison is that you can often read technical documentation achronologically, but not really a novel. You can just jump in at any point and start reading a novel, and then skip back and forward. But you can with an online help file. You just dive in at any point.