Design expert Donald Norman has written that when people are anxious, they tend to narrow their thought processes. Conversely when people are happy, they become more creative and imaginative at solving problems. If this is true, it means that one of the best things a technical writer can do is create beautiful content that moves readers to a happier, more adaptive emotional state. Or so I contend.
Technical writers usually think of their job in functional terms: to help end users know something (such as how frequently an oil change is needed for your car) or do something (such as how to actually change the engine oil). Creating beautiful content is typically not seen as a core part of the equation. But what if technical writers thought of themselves as artists whose aim is to create a thing of beauty? Isn't that, in the end, what makes for a positive user experience?
“The only part of an argument that really matters is what we think of the people arguing." So goes one line in this passage from Kim Stanley Robinson's sci-fi novel about settlers on Mars. I think it's more true than we want to admit.
This is the informal code of woke social justice that I have come to observe in the era of social media: You absolutely must be doing social justice, and a doing a lot of it, or there is something very wrong with you. Yet you must not post about the social justice you are doing, because then you are virtue signaling. Yet if you say nothing, you shall be judged for your abominable silence. So you have to say something---but you better watch how you say it, or you may wish you had never said anything at all.
A journey through the Old Forest looks totally different from my day-to-day existence. Yet this passage from Tolkien is a pretty apt description of what I found life to be like in 2020, and continues to be like in 2021---a description that resonates more deeply with me than the Groundhog Day metaphor.
With COVID we have more opportunities for solitude than ever before, and artists of all people should be grateful for that. Right? Well ... what if solitude is less about isolation from the world so you can paint or write, and more about a process of "concentrated fascination" that leads to the production of art not only for yourself but for the common good?
For technical writers, content reuse it a great idea---but way more difficult in practice than it sounds. Here are some of my practical suggestions on how to do it in a sustainable way, based on my years of experience implementing it with tools like Confluence and Madcap Flare.
An article from The Atlantic says gossip can strengthen interpersonal bonds and make us better people. I am dubious.
I've moved away from social media and have turned more of my attention to an unlikely source: email newsletters. Here are a few I recommend.
It's quite simple, really: A public pension, encouragement to keep going, and assurance that not all the stories worth telling have been told.