Just Blog! Words from a Repeat Offender
At least once a month, AAAS Policy Fellows get an email from a Sci on the Fly editor with a suggestion for a blog post – it usually starts with, “Who can speak to this topic….”? I like to believe that most people a) read the email and then b) think, “wow, that would be a good topic for a blog” then c) if they are someone who can speak to the topic they write and if not, they are reminded of another topic about which they can write.
However, since most people don’t take it to the next step to post, I thought it was because of the time demands of the fellowship. Except, that isn’t the feedback I’ve been getting from fellows; a number have told me they want to write but don’t because they’ve never written a blog post before. This surprises me: I know that fellows can do anything they set their minds to. Maybe it's more that people don't know where to start? Regardless, I have put together a few tips for blogging that may help turn a potential blogger into a Sci on the Fly ‘repeat offender’ -- an affectionate term for fellows who write more than once.
1. Sign up.
Put yourself on the writing calendar at Sci on the Fly and presto! Deadline. I find unless I am on the hook to post on a specific week, I find any number of excuses not to write. Time is a big one, but it's not a solid excuse for me and it shouldn't be for you; writing a post doesn’t take that long, on average I spend an hour on each post. You just have to change your perspective on the size of the task.
2. Face your fears.
No one should live in fear of writing. I know it can be intimidating to put your thoughts out there and have others read your work, but as is true with public speaking, the best way to overcome the fear is to get out there and do it. I will be surprised if you find it to be a truly horrible experience. In fact, you will most likely feel an amazing sense of accomplishment, and maybe even a desire to post more. Besides, there is way less sweating and shaking associated with blogging compared to public speaking.
3. Get your topic (write what you know/what bugs you).
My best posts are the ones that originate with my reading about a new policy or a story that makes me go, “what the?…” either in the sense that I can’t believe some scientist discovered this, or that I can’t believe the idiocy of this. I can write those in 30 minutes. What gets your science geek revved up? What is your branch of science/engineering doing that wows you? What should wow someone else? How is your experience with science for policy or policy for science affecting the world? Get it out there through the blog. Social media is the medium of today.
This is the complicated part, how to write your piece? First, and foremost, turn off your internal editor. Just write, it can be as unorganized and full of science jargon and/or acronyms as you like. Get your thoughts on the page. I use this technique with everything from journal articles to emails. Put it down on virtual paper (unless you still use pen and paper, some people do) and then organize. A blog has an intro, then the body that contains the details of your argument/reasoning/story, and then a conclusion that ties together all of the threads woven into the piece. As with a research paper, sometimes it is easier to write the body and then go back to do the introduction; do what works for you. Second, be authentic and personable. Think of your piece as a conversation, you’re telling grandma about “what you do at work.” Don’t write a research paper, write a conversation: keep it conversational/keep it short/back-translate those science terms so grandma gets it. Which brings me to the third piece of advice on this: once your draft is written, turn the editor back on. Sometimes I take a break and come back at it with fresh eyes. Clean it up, make it more concise, take out the acronyms, and explain the science geek terms clearly, move some things around so the ideas are organized and flow logically. If you want to have a friend read it before posting, go for it. If not, we have some pretty good editors at Sci on the Fly, if I do say so myself.
5. End with a question or a provocative thought.
Give your readers an ask – what do you want them to do with this information you’ve just put out there? Ultimately, we’d like to inform AND create dialog, and what better way than to ask your readers to really think about what you’ve said - and then comment? Ask them what they think, and you just may get a response. Don't worry about whether comments might be critical, a response is a response and that means someone read your words and you made an impression.
6. Post it!
The website is pretty self-explanatory, but if you have questions, we’re here to help!
7. Put it on your resume.
Congratulations, you are now a published blog writer for the AAAS Science & Technology Fellows world renowned blog Sci on the Fly. You’ll be amazed how this increases your traffic on LinkedIn and how it has helped people stand out in job interviews (myself included).
The more you write, the better you get. The more you write, the bigger your audience. Find them, keep them: write repeatedly. I hope this post was helpful to you, and if you have any questions feel free to ask. As always, I look forward to seeing your by-line. Did you know you also get a by-line when you post? How Hunter S. Thompson is that?
Image courtesy of clker.com
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