Write the Docs takeaway: ditch the imposter syndrome

I returned from the Write the Docs 2018 conference in Portland last week feeling inspired. Full disclosure: this conference always has this effect on me. How could it not? I spend two days inside a beautiful ballroom in downtown Portland with 300+ documentarians, who are all passionate, smart, creative, and fun.

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Photo by Kay Smoljak CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This was my third year attending. I usually host an unconference and attend all the talks. I typically return from the conference with new tactical knowledge. The first year, I learned about just-in-time documentation initiatives. The following year, I collected ideas about writing microcontent (UI text) and learned how to treat docs like code.

This year was different. A recurring theme was empowerment. Specifically, helping tech writers feel empowered to ditch imposter syndrome, understand our value as communicators, and promote ourselves and our work. I especially loved Havi Hammond’s presentation on finding your blogging voice in the technology industry. I returned from this year’s conference with a renewed sense of purpose.

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Photo by Kay Smoljak CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Go get published

Yes, I suffer from imposter syndrome. I’m a formally trained biologist and researcher, not a formally trained writer. I have an ingrained academic notion that if you want to publish something, you must be an expert or authority on the topic. It must be perfect.

While I don’t have degrees in English, Network Engineering, or Computer Science, I remind myself that I make a successful living as a technical writer. I enjoy my work and have interesting perspectives, experiences, and ideas to share. What good is it to sequester myself from online conversations because of fear that I’ll misplace a comma?

Last week, I wrote a personal blog post about the mental barriers I put up when I try to write and draw. Next week, I’ll publish my first professional blog post for my current company.

I’m taking baby steps to stopping imposter syndrome. My goal is to present at Write the Docs next year. To prepare, I’ll keep writing, publishing blog posts, and find my voice. The wind is at my back.

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