Re: why I want to Tech Write

Subject: Re: why I want to Tech Write
From: Bill Swallow/commsoft <wswallow -at- COMMSOFT -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 10:28:05 -0500

I see... but where is your love? With fiction or with scientific fact?
Don't get me wrong, my collegues have proven that creative writers can be
very effective technical writers, but they have to turn their 'creative'
side off and their technical side on. (Yes, you need to be creative to be a
tech writer, but it's not the same as fiction.)

I'm not knocking you at all, but rather trying to get you to see the job
for what it is. I had the same mindset as you when I was in college, and
now that I've been out in the real world for three years I see things from
a very different view. Based on the list you compiled, here are some issues
you should be thinking about. My intent is not to scare you away or slam
you in any way, but just to provide you with some insight into what lies

You love writing.
Do you like writing about the same thing for sometimes months on end? Do
you like writing within a confined style, so everything is 100% consistent
for readability's sake?

You know that you can't eat by writing fiction.
You should see some of the entry-level salaries... ;-)

You hate academia and see it as pompous and useless.
Well, I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, but as a tech writer you
will always be engulfed in academia in some way or another. The learning
process never ends for us, and with that learning also comes teaching. Like
the mob, once you're in, you're in for life. ;-)

You wouldn't be willing to work in conditions that journalists work in.
Well, many think of tech writing as technical journalism. You still have to
make meetings, set up interviews, do investigative reporting and so on, but
just in a smaller realm (that of your company, most likely). Tech writers
have to be able to squeeze as much if not more blood from a stone that
journalists, because unlike journalists, tech writers' publications need to
teach people how to do things the right way - else ther could be a problem.
An operating system could crash, payroll could be run incorrectly, or power
plants could melt down - a lot rests in the hands of accurate technical

You loved the classes.
Well that's cool. I did to. And I love the work I do now, mostly because
it's WAY more intense. Gimme more, more more! :-)

You love technology and computers.
Well that's a plus, but there's more than just liking it. Do you understand
it enough to get into the bits and packets and understand why it works? Not
every tech writer needs to do this, but it helps if you're documenting
hardware and software. Loving technology will also help you learn the tools
of the trade, but the tools are nothing more than a fancy pencil - you
still need to know what to put down on the paper.

Lots of opportunity in the field right now...
Well I have to agree with you there. I've never seen any market (other than
COBOL about a year ago) as open as ours is right now. Granted it can all
change with a slight shift in the wind...

Contracting could give you the chance to work from home...
..when you're able to contract on your own. You have to build some solid
credentials first. And I've never met a contractor that hasn't had to
travel all over to visit their clients. There's the pre-contract 'howdy',
the start of contract investigation, the mid-contract uh-ohs, and the
wrap-ups. I was fortunate enough to get in with a cinsulting company, and
was glad I had a more in-house (headquarters) position. Some of the
consultants were on the road three weeks out of four, on the average!

I hope this gives you some stuff to think about. You may be lucky and not
have to really worry about a lot of this stuff, but it is out there. It's
all in the toss of the dice, with a little sharking which you'll learn in
time. I was a quick learner, then again I had to be because the dice moved
me up the ladder quite quick - let's hope there are no chutes in sight. ;-)

Anyhow, good luck! And for what it's worth, I miss college like an old
friend - or better yet, a security blanket. I can't wait to go back for

Emily Davidson <emilyfisher -at- YAHOO -dot- COM> on 12/02/98 05:30:54 PM
Please respond to Emily Davidson <emilyfisher -at- YAHOO -dot- COM>
Subject: why I want to Tech Write

On the question of why we do this, a lot of the replies seem to be
that people kind of wander into this field. I thought you might be
interested in what makes Tech writing my field of choice. I'm about
to graduate and have chosen to want to work in this field. Here's why:

1. I love writing
2. I know that you can't eat by writing fiction
3. I hate academia (no offense meant) because I see it as pompous and
4. I wouldn't be willing to work under the conditions journalists work
under (tried that, took the classes, but...)
5. Looked into tech writing, took the classes, loved it! (it
practical, my existence might mean something to the population at large)
6. I love technology and computers
7. Lots of opportunity in this field right now (at least, that's the
8. Contracting could give me the chance to work from home (if I decide
I want to)

I think that about covers it all briefly.


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