Sunday, December 4, 2011

And So It Starts

Scenes from a Saturday…

Computer and Coffee Cup


Soup and Bread

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.


Laurie said...

I'll read it! Though I'm not a science-y person, I think it would be cool to see what you science-y people do.

Raquelita said...

Should we each set a weekly word count goal? (Or something like that.) Then we can check in with each other and keep each other accountable over email. Alternatively, I have a FB group that has largely been inactive lately for such things. I can send you an invite. Let me know. :)

Shannon said...

eek, i haven't written since my thesis... i'm pretty sure that's not a good thing. oh well. good luck, and i'll definitely give a read!

Sarah said...

I've just started at university, and I'm finding it so hard to adjust to the academic style of writing here! Good luck in everything you're doing at the moment, I'm sure it will turn out brilliantly!

Rosiecat said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for all your comments. I'm having serious computer issues over here this week, so bear with me.

Laurie, thanks!

Raquelita, I'm thinking that I'll break down my grant- and paper-writing into sections, so maybe I'll set goals based on drafting the various sections? Facebook might be perfect for this, if you're interested in reviving it. Send me an invite!

Shannon, believe me, my science writing skills are rusty too. And thanks for offering to be a reader--it would be great to have another scientist read it, though I think we do really different types of work.

Sarah, you'll get there. Be patient with yourself, and try to learn as much as you can, especially when you get feedback on your work. I think lots of us struggled with the transition to college-level work. Good luck to you!

Raquelita said...

I added you to the word count club on FB! Feel free to share your goals!