Technical Writers – The Excavators of the Writing World

Writing is known to be fun, engaging, and creative, but throw the word technical in front of it, and the perception could change.

I had a conversation with an old acquaintance who worked as a blog writer. When I told him I was a technical writer, he said he could never do that because it was not creative enough. That is the perception that some people have of technical writing. Well, I am here to convince you, with the help of a bizarre analogy, that technical writing is creative.

Technical writing is creative in the way that excavating is creative. Excavating is the process of digging holes in the ground, using heavy machinery, for various construction purposes. That might not sound very creative, but hear me out. An excavating machine operator must adapt and get creative with how they place their machine and how they dig their hole, trench, etc. They are like sculptors, but their marble is earth. As an excavator must get creative with how they dig their hole, a technical writer must be creative with how they dig up information from source material to write a document.

Technical writers are like sculptors, but their marble is source materials, existing documentation on a particular subject, and style guides. Let’s say you are working with a construction company, and they have tasked you with writing a training guide, teaching beginners how to operate construction equipment. The company may provide you with various source documents on how to operate and run the construction equipment effectively and safely. When you begin the project, you read and study the source documents, because you need to be able to write about this subject effectively. As you read, you notice that the source documents are very technical and advanced, but the training guide you are writing needs to be for beginners. This is where creativity comes into technical writing. It is your job to extract that advanced information and make it clear to a beginner in the field. You need to be creative in how you rewrite, reword, and make sense of source material. Often, technical writing is about taking something advanced and simplifying it for a particular audience.

In this case, your audience, the beginners who will read the training guide, should not have to do the hard work. That is up to you, the technical writer. You are the creative excavator. So, jump in the trench, get dirty, and dig out the information needed! In the end, your hands may be muddied, but the document will not be.