handwriting How did you get into technical writing?

Read about how our community got interested in technical and professional writing.

Whether it's a passion or just a job, we're all about technical and professional writing. What was your first experience? We asked our community:

Seth Kenlon started by figuring something out and writing about it:

I take extensive notes about everything I ever figure out how to do on a computer. Pretty early on, I realized that other people would likely benefit from my research, so I started publishing tutorials for common technical tasks on blogs and podcasts. I've carried that through to jobs, and always try to document how I do what I do at work so others can learn my role as needed.

AmyJune Hineline started by contributing to an open source software community:

My first contribution to Drupal was helping to improve the README files for the contributed modules. Sometimes, the READMEs would only have some of the information a beginner to the project would need to be successful. I would write module descriptions and steps for configuration in a manner that novices could understand. From doing that, I learned Drupal README best practices and how to write in MARKDOWN.

Ben Cotton also started in open source software:

I got into it by accident, I suppose. I'd been using Fedora Linux as my primary operating system for several years and wanted to give back to the community somehow. I knew I couldn't contribute much in the way of code and the infrastructure was beyond my knowledge, but I could write words. I joined the Fedora Documentation team and was quickly welcomed as a new contributor.

The encouragement and support I got from that group gave me the confidence to keep writing and the feedback I needed to become a better writer. Of course, I'd been doing technical writing for years without thinking of it that way. Many of my early blog posts were notes to myself about things I learned as a young sysadmin or docs I wrote for the undergraduate IT assistants that worked for me.

Lauren Pritchett grew up with a love for writing:

I wanted to be a newspaper editor when I was a kid. I loved writing and sending out newsletters in the neighborhood. Although I never pursued traditional journalism, my interest in telling stories through the written word has carried me through my career as a copywriter, digital marketer, SEO practitioner, and eventually as managing editor for a publication called Opensource.com. It was during my time working on Opensource.com when I became immersed in technical writing and editing. 

Jim Hall had a great first mentor:

I'd always written a lot of documentation for work. At my very first job, my first-ever boss encouraged me to write down everything I did so that someone else could do the same job. She helped me understand that by sharing the knowledge, I was more valuable to the organization. Keeping all that information in my head meant I would be a liability - because if I left, all that knowledge left, too.

Later, when I moved into IT leadership, I wrote strategic planning documents, positioning statements, IT Master Plans, statements to the Board, things like that. So I guess I've done "technical and professional writing" forever.

But it was when I earned my MS degree ten years ago that I really found a passion for technical writing. Writing 500 to 800 words on a topic was no longer a chore - it was something fun to do. That's how I got into it.

Robin Bland found a love for professional writing:

I have a secret: I didn't really like writing as an undergraduate student. I thought papers were really hard. But at some point, I got over it. Academic writing is different than professional writing. And I like writing "how-to" articles, procedures, and things like that.