Technical Writing - an 'orchestrated' performance
To an extent, what you write is a reflection of your inner self - situations that you have personally identified with - dropping subtle hints about your personality and state of emotional well being. In many ways, it characterizes you as an individual. The other day, an aspiring technical writer wrote to me. He asked "Rahul, how has this profession treated you all these years? Does it ever get to you?" I candidly replied, "As a Technical Writer, I take immense pride in the products I write for, even though my scope is limited, and ditto with the words I choose."
In fact, heart of hearts, I have always enjoyed these constraints. Sometimes, I feel that technical writing is similar to an highly orchestrated performance in which each note is determined in parts by the previous note, still leaving abundant room for endless creativity. It's similar to a situation where you are trying to connect to a large unplugged audience. And speaking of audience, most (if not all) of our writing is directed towards the end users of our products, which is quite a wonderful thing. At least you are not asked to shoot in the dark! Having said that, it might be a good idea to learn the art of changing gears - from a writer to a user. Yes, you heard it; I am asking you to roleplay as a surrogate user.
Only when you do that, can you touch base with the actual requirements. Don't compromise, no one has asked you to...just think aloud - will the user compromise, if he/ she come across a sloppily written manual with a newly purchased product? As Technical Writers, you can add value to a world-class product by enhancing the quality of documentation that is shipped with it. By engaging with the product as a user and by teaching others how to use the product to achieve their goals, you can add a lot of substance to your profile.
Unfortunately, everyone believes that they have written an extremely remarkable manual, until the user creeps up the wall and makes the living life hell. Exactly why is connecting with the users so critical? Heard about this whole outcry about 'value for money?' The markets world over have become highly consumer-centric and this trend is here to last, at least for sometime.
To be an effective Technical Writer, you need to be the kind of person whose writing resonates with the users. Empathize with your readers, understand their goals, use clear and direct language to teach them how to be successful with the product. Trust me, being a successful technical writer is surely one beautiful feeling. So, start wearing those thinking caps, if you haven't already.