I’m a technical writer.
In simplest terms, I use my writing skills to translate technical materials, particularly software functionality and architecture, into language that anyone, and not just the software engineers, can understand. This work often manifests itself in the form of manuals, installation guides, and help content.
To say this work is dry would be an understatement. It’s positively Sahara-esque.
But I’ve long accepted the fact that, as someone who wants to make a decent living, technical writing is one of the niche trades a writer can take up that’s reasonably and reliably profitable. I like my job, but I rarely leave work feeling like I’ve done Tolstoy proud.
An Inconvenient Truth
I’m hardly alone. Many professional writers have to forgo whatever artistic inclinations a youth of reading the greats inspired in order to make an honest living. Concocting commercial scripts—there’s work to be had but none glamorous.
The biggest problem is that there’s little in the way of variety. Great writers need to explore different themes, styles, tropes, forms, and mediums in order to develop a palate for the good, the bad, and the ugly. That’s something most day jobs in the field don’t necessarily allow.
But I’ve found the secret, and lately, both the quality of my day job’s work and life have improved tenfold.
The secret, you ask? Freelance writing.
I’d heard of “weekend freelancers”, but for years I never thought I’d be able to handle freelancing alongside a full-time career. After all, in this connected and email-saturated age, 5 pm is hardly the end of the workday and the weekend hardly the end of the workweek.
In spite of this reality and after years of abstaining, I finally decided to jump into the deep end. In the last year, I’ve taken freelance jobs writing blog posts, tweets, emails, proposals, brochures, product descriptions, and more. I’ve taken more than I can handle. I’ve worked well into the night and sacrificed sleep. I’ve missed deadlines. I’ve had headaches and heartaches aplenty.
But I found my passion again.
Writing freelance about different topics and across different forms has reminded me what I’m capable of. It has given me the chance to experiment with different voices, different tones, and different styles. It has refreshed my lexicon with words new and once-known.
Freelance writing has reminded me of what I love about writing. It has reminded me why I used to smile every time I put pen to page. It has reminded me of a romance with written word that I’d forgotten about.
And now, thanks to this rekindled romance, I find myself smiling every time I go into work now and every time I start a new freelance job. I know now that every word I write at work makes me a better freelancer, and every word I write as a freelancer makes me a better tech writer.
I’m a writer, and freelancing helps me to remember, embrace, and love that.