Technical writing as a passion project
Find your passion and write about it. Don Watkins shares his experience as a technical writer about Linux and open source software.
Don Watkins is a technical writer about Linux and open source software, highlighting tools and apps you can run on your favorite Linux desktop. More recently, Don wrote about how to make writing easier with speech recognition using Whisper. Thanks to Don for this great interview about his work in technical writing.
1. What is your background in technical writing? What topics do you like to write about?
I got started in technical writing while working in a school district as the technology director. I needed to develop technology plans for the school district, and that involved describing the kinds of computers, networks, routers, switches, and access points we needed. Research and sharing the results of that research is an area that has always interested me, and writing gave me an avenue for that interest.
I have been using Linux and open-source software for over twenty years. What has become familiar to me is only occasionally familiar to others, and I started blogging about the discoveries I was making and how this could impact PK-12 education.
My interest in Linux and open source uniquely paralleled my technology planning. The wedding of the two subjects became an area that needed an advocate, and I gladly accepted that role.
Explaining how and why to use open-source software, where you can find it, and how to install it often requires detailed instructions. My passion for adopting Linux and open source led me to become a technical writer about Linux and open source software.
2. What tools do you use for your technical writing?
I use a mix of tools in technical writing. I started out using Microsoft Word and then progressed to LibreOffice Writer. Eight years ago, I started writing for an online technology publication where many articles were collaboration subjects, which led me to use Google Drive and its word processor. I have been using Joplin and syncing it with Microsoft OneDrive because I can access the content from all my devices.
Recently I paid for a subscription to Grammarly, which helps me express myself more clearly and also checks my punctuation.
3. What is your process when writing about a technical topic?
For me, writing about technical topics involves a lot of research. I learn as much as possible about the subject using Internet searches. These lead me to follow up with other technical and topical writers. I also listen to video presentations and podcasts by people knowledgeable about the subject I will write about.
4. What habits have you developed in your technical writing?
Writing always involves a lot of concentration, so I typically work in a space with few distractions. I love music, but it would be a distraction. When I am writing, I focus on the task at hand.
5. What advice would you give someone who is getting started in technical writing?
If you are interested in technical writing, pick a topic or an area that interests you. It is much easier to start writing about topics you are passionate about.
You can follow Don's writing at donwatkins.info.