Scenes from a Saturday…
I started writing my paper on Saturday. Writing a science paper is like being in labor for months, or at least it feels like it to me, a woman who has never been in labor with a child. (Perhaps the mothers in the audience will forgive my use of this metaphor.) It requires a lot of patience, attention, deep breaths, and tolerance for uncertainty. Will you find the right words to describe your results eloquently? Can you craft an introduction that is at once snappy, interesting, and accurate? Can you inject some provocative speculation into the discussion without making the reviewers go berserk? It’s all very exciting, the craft of writing. A science paper is simultaneously fiction and nonfiction: it’s a set of data, edited and parsed for presentation, told as a story. Turning science into a story makes it a work of fiction because the process of doing science is never as clean as it appears in publications.
And yet, I do love to write. Even the messy, stop-and-start process of writing a science paper delights my word-loving heart. Even knowing that my paper will get shredded by my advisor, reviewers, and any readers I can rope into reading it* doesn’t subtract from the joy of getting to write professionally, even if it’s on the weekend. I could feel myself hesitating to start writing this paper, but I feel really good now that I’ve started. My goal is to submit the paper by the end of February 2012, which means my advisor needs a draft a few weeks before that, which means I’ll be writing the paper and finishing(?) experiments in January. Which is, um, next month, in case you were curious. Wow. When I put it like that, it kinda freaks me out.
But I’m going to take the writing section by section, and I’ll take the data figure by figure. I’ll write a shitty first draft, if I must. And I’ll make myself a really good lunch because writing, as you know, is hard work. It’s important to keep ourselves well-fed while we create something from nothing.
Have a good week, my dears.
* Want to be one of my readers? Yes? Seriously?!? Hurray! Let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail at lifeloveandfood [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll send you the manuscript when it’s ready for readers.