How do you get into Technical Writing?

Or Technical Authoring, whatever 😉

I realised the other day that despite nearly twenty years in various roles in technical writing, and more recently product, I’ve never written a blog or shared some of the experiences. I’m now going to attempt to rectify this behaviour!

So let’s start back at the beginning with the age-old question — how do you get into technical writing? Well, you fall into it usually! No, I don’t mean it’s a massive hole, although some days that metaphor is apt, nor do you fill in one of those questionnaires at school and it spits out “hey, you’re gonna be a kick-ass technical writer one day”! Nope, sorry, that’s not true either, it’s never on those forms (for reasons I’m not entirely clear on).

So if not that, then how?

Well, sometimes a well-meaning friend pushes you into it with sage words such as “I think you’d be good at this” or “you kinda suck at your job, you need to try something else” (both of these happened to me).

However, an increasingly common route seems to be somewhat more sneaky and subliminal (but you can make it active if you know it’s what you want!). Imagine that you’re in a role, it’s your dream job, it’s what you’ve studied for, and it’s why you have a student debt that is at least 25% of your prospective future mortgage. One morning, while you’re munching your unbranded flakes of corn, you have the sharp realisation that some unseen force has been at work and you’re now the person that is trusted to not only review product documentation, but also create it because you enjoy it. You do your day job too, (you know, the dream one), but you’re also rather invested in the product documentation.

Wait, what?! I don’t even know how that happened! You carefully place your spoon back into your unbranded flakes of corn and wonder how you got here, what turns you took and why you find documentation, heck, technical documentation at that quite so alluring.

This is a great way to get into technical writing! Position yourself as the go-to person for the product documentation and demonstrate your awesome skills with each and every piece of valuable product documentation you create! Go ahead and create a business case for your dream job, mk II, (if it doesn’t exist yet) and land that technical writing job that maybe you didn’t even know was a thing, let alone your thing.

Are you broken? Nope! But you are a special and unique kind of person that is incredibly passionate about helping the user to achieve their goals when you know deep down that if they’re reading your prose, they’re likely already annoyed and have been failed by the product. Yet you still care, you still want to help champion them, you still see the beauty in the written word, and you want to wield it to solve the user’s challenge and help serve the product.

Good for you!