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Cherryleaf collects tech writer goals for 2021

by Tom Johnson on Dec 27, 2020
categories: technical-writing

Ellis Pratt's latest episode of Cherryleaf lists goals that technical writers have for 2021. Rather than just listing each response, Ellis reads these responses while walking in some historic setting and peppers in historical asides to break up the responses.

Here are the most common themes Ellis found from the goals that tech writers submitted:

The most commonly mentioned words and phrases were:

Life balance
API documentation

The most common themes were:

Job security
Work from Home
Work/Life Balance
Continuing Professional Development and growth
Getting docs online

See Here’s what people said when we asked, what is one goal you’re setting for 2021? for more details. Understandably, it seems most people are focused on job security and want to stay gainfully employed for 2021. There’s also desire to be healthy while working from home, grow professionally, and find more work/life balance.

The podcast got me thinking about my own goals for 2021. What will I be focusing on this year? This is a pivotal year for me, since I have recently moved from California to Washington and switched from Amazon to Google. As I’m still onboarding and ramping up in my role, I’m not sure what major issues, technologies, or challenges I’ll face yet. That will gradually emerge.

Some basic goals for 2021 include becoming proficient in my role, becoming familiar with the most common technologies I’ll work with, and trying to contribute positively to the community in my workplace. I’d also like to focus more efforts on my Simplifying Complexity series, as I find this series to be the most relevant to my role.

One goal I had in 2020 was to be open to more risk-taking. I noticed that the longer I worked at Amazon, the more comfortable I’d become in everything, and I started to settle into some grooves and sort of coasted at times. That trend didn’t set well with me. As I get older, I have a fear of becoming a grumpy, old curmudgeon — closed off to new ideas that seem foolish, someone who is jaded by previous experiences. I fear becoming the grumpy old writer who, when you float some new idea, he shoots it down by saying he tried that years ago and it didn’t work. As I get older, I find myself becoming less ambitious, less eager to conquer the world and more suited to just living in it. That ambition of youth is something I wanted to try to re-kindle by keeping myself open to new experiences.

a notebook for trying new things

At one point in 2020, I even started a journal where I vowed to try one new thing a day. This goal didn’t last long, but it oriented me to be more open to new things. I rationalized that even simple changes would prompt me to be more open to larger changes. Some examples of new things I tried including squash merge workflows in Git, using clip-in pedals on my bike, alternating focuses each hour for productivity, playing video games while lying horizontally in bed, using a folding lock instead of a U-lock, implementing new methods for structured authoring with YAML files, mixing image ads with text snippets, trying Spotify instead of Pandora, trying some new food I’d never eaten, and so on. Nothing groundbreaking, just something new.

This notebook did start to reduce the sense of becoming set in my ways. Since each day I wanted to do something different, I looked for the opportunity each day and embraced it when it presented itself. Then near the end of the year, I opened up the big door to a new job and new location. For the past week I’ve just been trying to settle in and return my life to some normality.

For 2021, I’d like to continue in the same direction of opening myself up to new ideas and experiences. I’d like to try something new on a regular basis. I like experimenting with new ideas, places, techniques, tools, workflows, and more. There’s something to be said for trying new things just for the sake of developing an open-minded, welcoming perspective. Some ideas in the back of my mind for 2021 include trying new methods for measuring impact, adding previously forbidden topics to docs sets (now that I’m focusing on internal docs), exploring the idea that maybe creativity is my core talent rather than writing, and more.

More than anything, I want to cultivate an open, curious, experiment-driven mind. Especially as I grow older, I feel that openness is key to maintaining a sense of wonder and enthusiasm about the world around me. If I stay open to new things, no matter what comes my way, I might be able to see it in a welcoming light.

I also want to keep doing those things that got me to my current position in life — for example, writing regularly on this blog, presenting at conferences and events, adding to my API course, and so on. This past month, I’ve slipped a bit from my regular writing rhythm due to the long distance move and job onboarding.

I’m not sure if I’ll write a trends post this year, even though trends themes are by far the most popular themes on my blog. I think it’s clear that there’s a hierarchy of needs people are looking to fulfill (like Maslow’s hierarchy) in 2021, where first and foremost, job security needs are attended to before more creative needs. Many people are doubling down on their technical skills, ramping up on API documentation and docs-as-code tools and more to remain employed/employable. This focus is expected and makes sense. I hope that in 2021, our world calms down a bit and allows us to focus on more creative needs further up the hierarchy.

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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