Day in the life of
Techical Writer – Jon M. Quigley
I am a trained engineer, produced patents and many products for the company’s at which I have worked. I have written systems, products, and test specifications. I have written many technical books, and scores of magazine articles as well. The books are used at universities around the globe as teaching material for classes.
What is it like being a Technical writer?
Probably much like being any writer. Questions, research, and experiences all go into creating the work. Technical writers are trying to get very specific ideas across, and those ideas can be complex. The writer is obligated to put these ideas down in such a form to allow them to be readily understood.
What is your work life like?
Persistence: I write every day. Even if there is not some book or magazine article, I write on some topic. I write during vacations and holidays. I write early in the morning and then again in the evening. I like to use a line from the Jimmy Buffett song – If I Could Just Get It On Paper:
“Life and ink they run out at the same time
Or so says my old friend the squid”
~ Jimmy Buffett (Somewhere Over China Album)
Experience: I work in product development and the experiences from that work go into my writing. So, even when an article is not due, or I am working on a technical book, I record the interesting events of the day. This text may end up in magazine articles or in books that I write. I keep them in a folder under the topic so I can recall and use these in the future.
I have guest lectured at many universities. These trips have been very interesting experiences and learning opportunities that happened because of my writing.
A typical day looks like this:
1: Read emails on the state of the various product development (engineering) projects and respond accordingly
- Technical writing responding to emails
- Write product development and project reports.
- Generates a list of topics / subjects upon which to write (add interesting ones to my backlog of subject matter)
2: Work on projects (product development), where events unfold that are technical in nature. More fodder for written material.
3: Play my bass for a little to take my mind to other places
4: Research for a number of books or magazine articles that I am working
- Books on a variety of topics
- Record noted experiences
- Key organizations (INCOSE, SAE, AIAG, ISTQB)
- Articles that I want to which I want to respond
5: Collaborative works (co-written)
- Brainstorm subject matter
- Pass a powerpoint back and forth generating ideas for the content for larger content, simple outline for smaller articles.
- Pass the document back and forth or share on file-sharing items
6: Write magazine articles or chapters for books
- Writing encourages constant learning (self-growth) and the seeking of appropriate experiences
- Writing provides a good excuse for purchasing books (and other research material)
- A cathartic (and socially appropriate) outlet for events that may cause mental discomfort
- A person can write nearly anywhere. I have written while on vacation from a balcony overlooking a river in Gatlinburg, one of my favorite settings.
- The hours to do the work are not 9 am to 5 pm (could be much longer hours)
- Working with others to build something can be rewarding
- Writing is a good way to differentiate yourself – develop your brand.
- Writing can be a good second income source
- Takes a while to develop the network of outlets for which one writes
- Staying relevant requires investing time in constant learning
- Unlike fiction, we are not fabricating. We can theorize, but not fabricate. Articles on the future of technology are technical writing, but also some forward thinking that may not have strong ties to here and now tech.
- The constant internal pressure to write
- The revenue stream may be inconsistent and more like a creek than a stream or a river.
write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance instructions. May assist in layout work.