A day in a life of a Technical Writer

Day by day, writing the same documentation all over again, am I ever get bored of it?

I’ve just celebrated one-year anniversary as a Technical Writer. Many people I know, when they hear the term “Technical Writer”, don’t know what I do. I have to explain again and again that I write documentation, or you can say user guidance, for a software company. Actually, technical writing does not mean you write for a tech company. It could be a box of cards, an electronic device, or how to take care of a plant. But one thing is for sure, your writing is structured, following a style guide.

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A day in a life of a Technical Writer is not really interesting. I don’t need to update social media for trends, I don’t have to talk to a bunch of people, I just need to read and write. Most of the time, you will catch me reading about something that you already know, and there are days that I only write one sentence or two, not much, but it’s important. Usually, I’ll start my day a little late, around 9 or 9h30. I’ll be somewhere else, reading a book that is not related to the tech field, or writing a blog in a cafe shop, then I’ll arrive at the office.

One of the things that I cannot give up on is my morning coffee. It’s funny that the coffee machine usually broke after 1 or 2 cups, which makes us wait a while till we get our coffee. But it gives us a chance to slow down a bit and talk with others, which is an activity that I really like. After I get my coffee, either I rush to a meeting, or I sit down, enjoying my coffee while reading email, organizing my tasks, and reading some new letters from other competitors. Again, reading in the morning inspired me, and I enjoy it a lot.

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Usually, when writing for new features, not only do I read the requirements from the product managers, or watch demos from the development team, but I also read other documentation from competitors, and read related blog posts, until I finally understand what it is, why people need that features, what you need to learn in order to use that feature, and I always make sure that I can follow my own document to use the feature our team develops. Therefore, you can see that most of my time spend on reading and researching, and learning new things, which is pretty cool, right?

To me, the most beautiful part of writing documentation is how I can witness the whole development process of a feature, from the ideation to the release. Technical Writer is a part of the product team, and there you are playing the role of a history recorder, shipping the powerful capability of your product to the user, helping them out when using your product without having the customer support team holding their hands. Whenever I feel like I cannot think or digest any new knowledge, I also like scrolling on the forum, helping users out using my knowledge of the product. Not only one but most of the time, I encourage others to raise any bugs they found on the documentation, either a typo, or a deprecated solution if any, so I can make the documentation perfectly perfect.

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I know it can be a bit boring, writing one document all and all over again, but somehow, seeing that my work has an impact on the community, I get the motivation to work even harder. There will be a point when you bring your documentation to a stable stage when everything is up-to-date, you can then do white paper, or blog posts sharing tips and best practices when you don’t have to write one documentation again and again. There’s so much you can do if you stop moaning about how boring things are. And whenever you feel not in the mood of writing documentation anymore, just stand up and talk. You can find ideas and motivation anywhere in or out of your office, from a developer who fixes a bug again and again, or a newly launched product that has a bright tone of UX writing. It could be anything, as long as you still want to learn.

And a day as a Technical Writer usually ends with some online course on Coursera, yes, I do research all day and continue to learn more at night. What’s in it for? To me, nighttime is when I can learn whatever I want, either products or writing, or maybe someday I just read a self-healing book and learn how to love myself even more. It’s a matter of habit, always keep learning.

Kim Xuan.

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