Hello everyone! I know I haven’t written in here for awhile (sorry). I always mean to write, but it’s really hard to find the time to sit down and do it. I write for a living, so when I get home from work, sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit down at my computer- much less write something else!
So, for a change, I’m going to write about my job. I work as a Technical Writer, and unless you know me or someone else in that field, you’re probably asking what that is. When I tell people I’m a writer, people usually assume that I write for a newspaper or that I work some menial job and write manuscripts of novels in hopes of one day getting one published. Plus when I go to networking events, people always ask me “What’s that?” when I tell them my occupation. I mean, it’s not obvious, like being an accountant or nurse or truck driver.
Oh, and it’s hilarious to see the expressions on people’s faces when you answer “I write instruction manuals”. It’s really freakin’ hilarious! Then, if they still care to talk to me, I usually tell them what I really do, which really fascinates people because they don’t realize that someone out there has to write that stuff.
Basically, I write manuals for computer software. I don’t write the thick book that comes in the box with your software that you don’t read. But… when you’re using the internet, or any Microsoft, Adobe, etc, or ACS Technologies product (which is where I work and write, hooray!), you always see that icon on the toolbar that says “Help”. Maybe… if you’re really, really desperate and have spent hours trying to do a task, you actually click there to learn how to do something. In fact, in ACS software, you could also press F1 on your keyboard for help, and helpful information about the window you’re using actually displays. That’s called Context-Sensitive help. Pretty neat, huh?
That’s where I come in, because that’s what I write as a technical writer. Most people never think that someone out there has to write that stuff (Then again, when they’re using it, they’re just thinking about getting a job done, anyway). I always got this in college, because when I declared my major as Professional Writing during my sophomore/junior year, everyone wondered what I’d do with it.
But ponder this… everything you read- from a magazine or newspaper, to online help, a web page, an advertisement, a blog, the legal text on an entry form, the text on a legal document, a textbook… someone wrote that. Think of how much of your day you spend reading things, and imagine just how much MORE time someone spent planning, writing, testing, designing, editing, revising, that. Sure, I could have gone to college to major in something technical. My cousin went to school for TV and VCR repair, and obviously doesn’t work in that field anymore (when’s the last time you *used* a VCR, much less had one repaired?). But good communication skills will never die.
Believe it or not, a lot of work goes into our end users being able to click “help” or press F1 to learn about how to accomplish their church, school, or organization’s goals- because people don’t want to use software- they want to accomplish goals. So while it might not be the coolest, best-paying, or most prestigious job in the world, it’s pretty cool to be able to help others further their ministries, purposes, and goals. And I like it :).