Attention management for writers, the last part: pay no attention to productivity

So here we are, at the end of our attention span, and I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room: productivity. I’m not a huge fan of productivity talk. It always feels rushed, stressful, and focused on quantity over quality. Focusing on attention feels like the exact opposite: The goal is to …

Attention management for writers, part 4: Research notes

Research notes. A bombastic name for what is usually a bunch of half formed thoughts and snatches of typos. But you know what I mean. Why am I talking about research notes? Because, at least for me, messy notes – especially if they’re physically scattered among multiple sources (notebook, bits of paper, several different files) …

Attention management for writers, part 3: The obligatory Slack and email post, or: guilt management for writers

Until now, we’ve focused on calming the chaos of our internal voice. Now it’s time we talked about that other attention killer: external voices. And, because I like to cheat, their influence on our internal voice. One thing you can do this week: Understand the difference between objective obligations and emotions. Nothing new here Honestly, …

You’re not suffering from writer’s block; you’re suffering from indecision

That dreadful moment (hour? day?) when the words won’t come. We think of writer’s block as something that is stopping a well formed image from settling into the right words. But in reality, a writer’s block happens when our mental image is a little hazy and abstract. We can’t put it into words because words …

Writing from the ground up

Writing begins with awareness of the single word, then moves up. What can a word mean, and what does it actually mean in its current context? Does the sentence make its point as clearly as possible? Does the paragraph come together as a single point? Is it in the right place Does the whole document tell …

Redefine your audience through the gaps

When users find a gap in your documentation – some jump from A to C that gets negative feedback – don’t just fix it. Ask yourself how it got there. Gaps happen because: Someone didn’t think users needed the topic. This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the audience.someone didn’t think about the topic at all. This …

This isn’t the job you were hired to do

When you start a new job, you can’t really work without a mental image of the job: “This is my role. This is what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.” But that image is about 90% wrong (yes, I made that number up), and you need to let go of it …

Quick writing tip: What’s the default, and why?

As a technical writer, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is “what are the default values of the choices a user can make, and why”. For example, if an option is disabled by default, what does that tell you about the average user and their workflow? Are you trying to protect …

I Wonder That You Will Still Be Writing; Nobody Reads You

Agile got (at least) one thing right: stop writing documents no one’s ever going to read. If you want to honestly assess what will or won’t be read – and therefore what should or shouldn’t be written – you should answer some basic questions. We can divide these questions into two types: 1. Content questions: …

QA: Need Help Finding UX Faults? Ask the Technical Writers

Technical writers have a very clear goal: explain the interface. That means they notice, instantly, when it’s inexplicable. If your interface is a confusing mess with overly-complicated procedures, buttons that make no sense, important options hidden in sub-menus and related options kept a mile apart, it’s not only hard to use – it’s hard to …