Wednesday, July 17, 2013


So I just submitted a grant for the NSF CAREER.  I'm tired of writing.  Seriously tired.

Why am I writing some more?  Not sure, but I can say that writing on a blog is much easier.  Scientific writing can seem so mechanical ("In this aim, I will perform XYZ.  To perform X, I will use A to examine B.  This will tell me about C...").  Ugh.  Makes me want to hire a robot to write it for me.  But on the other hand, the best scientific writing is still an artisanal product.  It's like it's carved from a stone with a chisel over many months, with not a single word misplaced or misused, somehow weaving together often multiple strands of logic into a cohesive narrative.  The very very best scientific writing, in fact, is the stuff that makes you feel smarter while you're reading it, like when you're reading about one experiment and it's written so you think "wouldn't it be cool if they did XXX", and then you turn the page and it says "To test for that possibility, we performed XXX."  Man, that's awesome!  I'll get there one day.

It also occurs to me that my scientific writing suffers from the "first pancake" phenomenon–you know, when the first pancake never comes out quite right.  I think I just have to write the thing twice, almost from start to finish, before it's any good.  The first time, I just have to get the ideas out, and the very act of writing them down makes my thinking evolve.  So the beginning never quite matches the end. Rewriting is not fun (and certainly wasn't when Olivia told me my first draft sucked (very nicely and constructively, though!)), but the writing is much better for it.

Anyway, whatever, I'm just happy to have submitted something mostly coherent.  The nice thing is that I feel like I really clarified my thoughts while writing this thing, which is a good thing, and I'm really excited about the work and about the educational/broader impacts thing we proposed.  But that's a subject for another blog post...

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