With more than ten years experience in software development, technical support and documentation, I know the importance of clear, user-friendly material, presented in the most appropriate way for the audience.

I'm not just aware of it, I'm passionate about it.

Author Ink Blog

Observations and musings of a technical writer based in Hampshire.

A change of scene

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back in the day, I remember a new-starters' induction where a lady from HR gave a talk and said:

"Don't feel that you're chained to your desk; as long as the work gets done, we don't mind where you do it."

I found this liberating. It was an amazing working environment - a huge, open-plan office with some inspiring people, industrial strength espresso machines, and - wait for it - hair straighteners in all the loos (I know!). But nevertheless, there were occasions when it was like working in fog. Sometimes, clarity requires a change of scene, so during those times, I'd take my laptop to a bookshop around the corner and everything would be fine.

Later, when I switched to freelancing, I had romantic notions of 'living the dream' - working in coffee shops and parks and stately homes (yes - that actually crossed my mind). The reality hasn't quite lived up to that. Yes, I'll occasionally de-camp to a coffee shop if chats with the cat are becoming a little too deep - but most days are spent in my office. It's a perfectly lovely office - things DO get done and generally there's no place I'd rather work.

But, last month I found myself craving that change of scene, and a coffee shop just wasn't going to cut it. I needed something more drastic - somewhere I could go to develop a new idea that's been turning round in my mind for months, and maybe (just maybe) blast all of those admin tasks that have been languishing at the bottom of my to-do list for far too long. What to do?  Reader, I rented a beach hut. 

West Wittering beach hut

For one week, I occupied beach hut Number 9 on West Wittering beach, and it was everything that I needed it to be. That same week happened to be a heatwave, which meant that I had to get to the hut at crack of dawn to get a quiet few hours before the crowds arrived. I got a ton of admin done in those hours, then for the rest of each day I scribbled notes and sketched mind maps so, by the end of the week I had forged a plan and cleared my mind.

Now, I'm back in my office - refreshed and ready to push things forward. Turns out that a change of scene can be great for productivity AND good for the soul!



A Confession

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I work from the shed.

There, I said it. It's out there. Phew!

It's not that I've ever made a secret of the fact that I work from the shed; if a customer asks, or maybe we're just chatting, I'm always happy to say where and how I work - but I've never really thought about it as a unique selling point. 

My light bulb moment...

This changed very recently, when I went along to a social media workshop (given by the rather brilliant Pop Social in a rather brilliant kitchen). Whilst there, I broached the challenge of finding my 'voice' on social media. Who and what is Author Ink Limited? What do I want to say?

This is something that I'd been giving a lot of thought - like the builder whose own house is falling down or the gardener with a lawn that's been neglected for years - I can do a great job helping customers express themselves on blogs and social media, but my own feeds lay like tumbleweed, occasionally catching the breeze.

Anyway, somebody at the workshop asked me a simple question: 

"What's different about Author Ink?"

I thought for a second and then said the first thing that came into my head: 

"Author Ink is just me working from a shed in the garden, usually with a cat overseeing the process."

Everybody leapt on this instantly - "That's It!" They said. "That's your voice!"

And of course they were right. My voice - my unique(ish) selling point - is my shed. Totally obvious when you think about it. 

OK, not literally the shed. But the fact is that Author Ink is only me; there are no officlal offices or people to delegate things to (when did you last try to get a cat to do anything on demand...?), but there is a very good, very professional technical writer who just happens to do things a bit differently. I think that's worth talking about. 

There are some truly brilliant technical writers out there who can reverse engineer Robohelp in their sleep; wax lyrical about advanced macros for Microsoft Word; explain the difference between a diphthong or a digraph in a nano second - they all have their niche and I for one love hearing and reading about that stuff. But now it seems I might have a little niche of my own. I've got technical writing in the shed.

So, back to that shed...

When is a shed not a shed? If anyone were to get really accurate/pedantic about it, I'm not entirely sure that 'the shed' actually qualifies as a shed because it's made of stone. Truth be told, it's an old wash house complete with copper (the washing kind - not a sitting tenant policeman) and its own chimney - but with a new roof, big glass doors and LOTS of white paint, it makes for a lovely place to work:

Being stone, it's gloriously cool in this current heatwave (hoorah!) and keeps the heat in winter. On the downside, I've seen some doozey spiders - horror film scale spiders - but other than that I'd have to think long and hard about any real negatives.

Do I miss working in a glossy office? Sometimes, yes. Not so much the office gloss, but the people and the buzz and the camaraderie when you're working late for a seemingly impossible deadline and someone turns up with pizza and some rubbish jokes. Sometimes I miss that.

But right now, working from home has some amazing advantages and I love it - that's why you're likely to hear me banging on about it a bit more as I try to breathe new life into this blog and my social media feeds...


Fame at last! My little office is featured in the Garden Offices Gallery at Work From Home Wisdom - see http://bit.ly/1mncaiX.

** If you enjoyed reading this post then please do leave a comment - it's always nice to hear your thoughts. Similarly, if you're looking for a technical writer for a documentation project - large or small - I'd love to hear from you.

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