Friday, September 18, 2009

Technical Writing for the Creative Writer

This last week at work involved a lot of technical writing with Statement of Work documentation for various processes and services that our department offers. At first it seemed to be a very daunting task. After all, technical writing is essentially devoid of flowery or descriptive text for a reason. But in the end it worked out fine.

I just wish I could spend 10 hours a day writing the stuff I want to write. You know what I mean? And it kind of stinks feeling all written out after spending that much time sitting in front of the computer researching and typing, researching and typing.

But of course, life isn't as simple as just work and hobbies is it? The neighborhood I live in is dealing with some tough issues. I'll tell you what, I'll never move into another Home Owner Association community ever again! I'd basically given up, washed my hands of the matter and decided to just pay the bill and move on with life. But then the Board tried to push through some new covenants, restrictions, and bylaws that effectively stripped the homeowners of their ability to regulate the Board's actions and remove Officers from office. I'm not sure what it is, maybe the fact that I spent 6 years of my life in the military "defending freedom"? Or maybe it's because I just don't like other people trying to infringe on my rights, but when I saw the new proposed changes I couldn't help but stand up and get involved again. To start off, that meant writing up some posts to the community blog explaining some of the things that had happened behind the scenes with the Board before I tossed in the towel. More writing, but not exactly the type that I was hoping to do if you know what I mean.

Even in the face of all of this, I am determined to make some time to write this weekend. And look at this! I've already written a blog post about some of the issues that technical writing can create for the creative writer. So what are some of these issues?

Writing fatigue is a major one. When you spend all day writing technical documentation, it can be hard to sit and write more. If you do your writing on a computer, you might experience pain or discomfort staring at the screen or typing on the keyboard. I guess the best thing I can recommend is that you try to get some air, step out of the room, maybe go outside, but get out of the environment to help clear your head. In my case, I just put off my writing for the weekend, but do whatever works for you.

Mixing technique. By virtue, technical writing is much different than creative writing. Technical documents are straight to the point, they spell out the ins and the outs and they leave no room for creative interpretations. A technical document is written to be the law. A creative document is much different, it isn't the law per se, but a story. It could be creative fiction or creative non-fiction, it doesn't really matter. The creative part is only a description of the style of the writing - or perhaps a better explanation is that it is a description of the relationship between the writer and the reader.

Another issue that I find is that it is actually sometimes easier for me to write technical documents for the company I work for because no one really cares about who I am when they read them. The writing is generally accepted because the information is correct and there is no relationship to be established like when I write as a hobby for my creative endeavors. I'm not just writing a story, heavens no. When I write, I am building a relationship with my reader - a person that I may never meet. I don't know their background, their interests, and yet I take upon myself the task of writing a story that will touch a part of their soul and make the read worth while. After long sessions of technical writing, it can be daunting to work on that relationship and switch gears from omnipotent overlord to a weaver of tales.
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