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Is technical writing boring?

by Tom Johnson on Feb 13, 2007
categories: technical-writing

After Clyde posted his survey about technical writing blogs, we read the following from Fred Sampson's blog:

... I included a comment saying that discussing technical writing bores me.

And Jenny comments:

Well, apparently, it bores me as well. I haven't posted anything about it in at least a year (hell, I haven't posted about anything in quite a long time), and yet they still listed my blog on the survey. *sigh* I guess even a barely-active tech writing blog is better than nothing at all? *shakes head*

I have been thinking about these comments today. Is technical writing boring? Certainly no one dreams of being a technical writer. It lacks the adrenaline of a high profile job like an ER doctor or a courtroom lawyer (or even soldier in combat). Nor do we lead the eccentric lives of fiction novelists (speaking of fiction novelists, you must listen to this hilariouis farce interview podcast of a fiction writer (episode 3).

I don't drive to work thinking, cool, today I'm totally going to nail those instructions for the CRM mail merge after having to perform the tricky-but-still-possible-if-you-focus instructions for exporting the recipient database from your contacts with the right mail merge fields. Sweet! Am going to add screenshots, some concise but telling captions. Will single source the heck out of the content, maybe even manually layer the PDF with the visio chart. Must remember to maintain a consistent balance of text and graphics...

Uhm, my drive to work is often much different.

But dude, if discussing technical writing bores you, then wouldn't a job that involves doing technical writing also be boring? And if your job is boring, how can you be passionate about it? If you're not passionate about it, how can your work be anything but a 9 to 5 job?

While the content of what I write at work is not all that interesting, and even the paradoxes or other conundrums about technical writing sometimes dull, I really get excited about the technology side of my job. New technologies are emerging each day at a rapid rate. It's like we're living in the internet era before the burst. This is a Web 2.0 land, where even Google threatens to become the next operating system. I am really eager to use a wiki to write my next set of documentation.

I find that blogging and podcasting about technical writing (and technical writing encompasses a huge array of topics, from web design to illustration to usability to XML to single sourcing, DITA, and of course just help authoring) helps increase my interest and enthusiasm for the field.

But then again, I am young (31), and have only been a technical writer for two and a half years. Prior to this I was a copywriter and a composition instructor. But comparing technical writing with the other fields, I really feel like I found my home with technical writing.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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