I work as a technical writer which is the best job I’ve ever had. Not only do I get to write for a living, but I get to use my brain so I can explain how things work to people in the simplest way possible. What I like most about my job is that I have guaranteed audience and I always know how what I’m writing is going to end.
For the last year or so I’ve been trying to document some reports that for the most part are pretty easy to understand. The challenge has been organizing the information in a way that a user would use the report and describing the formulas the application uses to calculate the totals. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been completely satisfied with the documentation I created, mostly because the reports are constantly changing and they’re designed so that any idiot can figure out what’s in them by just looking at them.
One of the first emails I got this morning was from the Project Manager who signs off on the help topics I create for the reports. She had reviewed the latest updates I made to the topics and had basically gone through and changed a lot of content that was already there. I didn’t have time to go through all her comments when I opened the email because I had a meeting first thing, but I saw a lot of red text which made me think I had my work cut out for me.
I should say I really enjoy working with the Project Manager who reviewed the work; she knows what she’s doing and she’s great at identifying what she feels our customers are looking for in the web help. I also don’t mind being edited; it can smart at times but that’s why they call it “work” right?
Whenever I see that much red on a document, I start to question my ability as a Technical Writer and wonder if I shouldn’t be looking for another profession. The feeling usually passes but it requires a lot of deep breaths and cat videos to push through my insecurities.
When I finally got around to reviewing the Project Manager’s edits, I noticed something: many of her suggestions were variations of drafts I had previously written. Whether she knew it or not, we were reverting back to an earlier version of the topic I had already written. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but I have to admit, I felt a little vindicated. Still, it’s not like I could go up to her and say, “In your face,” since some of her suggestions were her own and they were really valuable.
Later in the day I sat through a meeting where one of our co-ops gave us a report on how she used our web help to learn how to use our product. I find these sessions valuable since it’s a great way to identify out-of-date material and improve the help.
Most of the co-op’s observations were minor and could be easily remedied, but there was one glaring mistake in the Table of Contents that almost knocked me out of my chair. Thankfully, it wasn’t my mistake but the person who made it has this habit of pointing out my mistakes when I least expect it, rattling my nerves and making me feel like an idiot. Again, I couldn’t go up to the person and say, “In your face” but it was nice to know they too were prone to making an obvious mistake.
That doesn’t make my mistakes any less stupid, but I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not a complete idiot despite the evidence to the contrary.