What is the Appeal of Science Writing?

At the risk of sounding cliché, this question came to me in a dream last night. I’ll spare you all of the wacky details surrounding the key question. In summary, I was attending a panel discussion featuring a successful bearded and bespectacled science writer (no one in particular, perhaps a composite of writers who inhabit my subconscious), which happened to take place in a cafeteria in snowy Toronto. After the discussion, I then sneaked into a movie theater that was showing a documentary about Portland, OR. Pretty exciting stuff, I know.

Throughout the discussion sequence, I peppered the writer with questions about his chosen profession. “What is the appeal of science writing” was the principle one that I posed, and also the point at which my dream became the most lucid.

His answer was that there is science in everything. Anything can be considered “science writing.” You can learn so much. That’s where the appeal lies.

I then asked him a desperate question about his process. Where do you start? With research, an outline, or the lead? I went on to explain my struggles with writing — how it’s easy to get derailed by the details I find in my research, and how I often want to include everything I learn about a subject in my writing. He seriously pondered this, and then copped out by saying he didn’t want to answer because the goal is to find my own style and process.

And Then I Woke Up

I realize that dreams can be a tool for your brain to work out a problem. I admit that I have been thinking about the future of my writing career lately. One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to practice writing and find a style, voice, and process. Therefore, I woke up with some energy to get going and stop thinking about it so much. Science writing is obviously something I’m passionate about enough to devote almost an entire dream to exploring. And life is all about living your dreams, right?

I also realize that dreams are influenced by daily events. I watched one of my favorite Flight of the Conchords episodes yesterday, “Bowie.” It would have been more exciting to have David Bowie appear to me in a dream to provide some science writing advice, but my dream was a good start.

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