Blogging when you aren’t a blogger

When I started this blog, I thought I’d write a post a month. The reality is I seem to manage to write a post a year. I write for my clients all of the time covering a variety of subjects. I feel chameleon-like slipping from writing style to writing style. I want my work to seamlessly merge with their existing content. I have a lot of information to convey and a specific viewpoint to present from. The words flow easily.

chameleon

Chameleon contemplating it’s next move

It’s harder to write when suddenly it’s my voice. What do I want to say to you who have come to my website? I enjoy what I do. I like working on a variety of subjects, becoming an expert in certain feature areas, if not the entire product. I love doing exploratory learning, figuring out how things work and then making it easy for others to do the same thing. I get to use a variety of tools for writing, creating online content, instructional media, video, audio, etc. I’m always learning and I never get bored. In the content that I create for clients, no part of my personality shines through. I am anonymous. I like being a chameleon.

Here on my own site, is a chance for me to be myself and I get the same feeling that many people get about public speaking. It’s ironic since I’m not afraid to speak in public. Again, when I do, I’m usually taking about technology or what it takes to start a small business.

Perhaps, I should start sharing what I learn about using the tools I use, or the technology areas I am writing about. Or, how I made the transition from being a staff technical writer to being a free-lance technical writer. Stay tuned for some future posts. Perhaps this is the year that I will manage to write more than one entry.

My how time flies

I had a New Year’s intention last year of writing a blog post a month and then I got busy with work and life. It was a higher priority to write content for my clients than to write content for this site. However, it wasn’t all work…

in 2015 we had an amazing vacation–one of those epic events–we went to Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island. It is a small island 2500 miles of the coast of Chile. Now that we’ve been there, I encourage you to go too. Look it up, learn about it, and go visit and amazing place on this planet.

rapa_nui_coastline

 

The newest tool I’ve been learning is reveal.js for creating HTML presentations. Perhaps I’ll write a future post about it.

Priorities

Now that the leaves are turning red here in CA I finally have time to return to my site and post this short update. Both work and life have keep me busy since my last post.

persimmon tree_2014_cropped

By the way, this is the view out my office window. I’m lucky to work mostly from home.

I’ve been juggling multiple clients and projects, a personal life, and activities that were a higher priority than writing an update for this blog. Now the blog gets my attention.

There are two key elements to priorities: making them and acting in accordance to them.

Making them can be a topic of its own but the key thing is that they should align with what is most important to you. Once you choose what is important, you need to make sure your actions reflect those priorities.

I use a paper TODO list to keep track of what I need to accomplish each day and over the week. I have an additional column for items I know I should do but I consider too low to make it onto the list. I still track them but let them wait until I have time to let those items move onto the actual list of things I’ll get done.

I have several categories that each have their own TODO items. These include: each client, my business itself, fitness goals, musical goals, and most importantly the personal section which includes relationships, friendships, and making sure there is time for fun, downtime, and activities of daily living. I have learned to not have too many things on my TODO list. My goal is to actually do most of them and still have unscheduled time for life or life’s surprises.

Juggling client priorities is interesting when you have more than one client and they may have more than one project. I use a calendar to help with that process to make sure I can meet each deadline I’m committed to. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about that and over time I’ve learned that it usually works out. I worry less and focus on working and tracking their dates and any changes or hints of changes in those dates. Since I don’t schedule myself too tightly, I have time to flex to make sure I can do the things that are truly a priority.

How do you learn new software?

How do you learn new software is a question I often get asked when interviewing for a contract. It helps that I’ve always liked figuring out how things work and I always liked showing off what I know. Those childhood traits still serve me well.

My husband teases me that I never read the manual—be it for a digital camera, dishwasher, or software. I just jump in and start fiddling with things. It’s true that even though I’m a technical writer I rarely read the manual to learn software. I read manuals, online help, or other instructional content for other reasons which I’ll share later.

My personal learning style is to learn by doing or kinesthetic learning. I jump in and use it and presume I can figure it out. To learn a client’s product, I like to see a demo if possible to see which features the company considers most important before I start my own exploratory process.

keyboard_typing

I also skim any existing documents—project plans, engineering design documents, functional specifications, UI specifications, QA test plans, training plans (if I’m writing documentation), documentation plans (if I’m developing training materials), and skim previous releases of the documentation or training materials if it exists. I use these supporting documents to confirm who the target audiences are and to develop a comprehensive list of the procedures that need to be documented. Depending on the scope of the project, if I can obtain them I will also look at the competitive product’s documentation or training materials to see how they define their audience and which tasks they cover.

Traditional instructional design theory says that the standard modalities of learning are visual, auditory, kinesthetic/touch, smell, and taste. Admittedly, the last two types are rarely used in learning software. In grad school we were asked to use each type of learning style in class so that we could experience them ourselves. I think back on that experience as I design learning content and try to provide content that supports each type of learner.