Tips for writing

As a postdoc at a school with a gigantic biosciences program and surrounded by other biomedical research institutes (Scripps, Burnham, etc), a lot of the professional development workshops offered here are not specifically helpful to me. For example, I went to a workshop on writing grants, but it was almost entirely focused on NIH grants; the speaker said he had never applied to the NSF for a grant. Still, I did pick up general tips and strategies about the process of writing a grant. In the same vein, I read an article in The Scientist (registration required) about improving scientific writing which offered ideas applicable to technical writing in general. One that stuck out for me was:

Write daily for 15 to 30 minutes
During your daily writing sessions, don’t think about your final manuscript. Just write journal entries, says Tara Gray, director of the teaching academy that provides training and support to New Mexico State University professors. “People think there’s two phases of a research project—doing the research and writing it up,” she says. Rather than setting aside large chunks of time for each activity, combine them to improve your writing and your research. The first time Gray encouraged a group of faculty members at New Mexico State to adhere to this schedule for three months, they wrote about twice as much as their normal output.

I think I’ll try doing this. I often complain that I live an “interrupt-driven” lifestyle, but sometimes flailing on some very involved epsilonics at the last minute to get something to work results in errors, tension, and woe.

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