For many of us, it has been a long time since we have written anything for other people to read. Yet, in science, the main mode of communication is via the written word, largely through the scientific paper. Like other enterprises, writing takes work and skill, skill that we may not have exercised in some time. As I speak to people and urge them to consider writing, I often hear them tell me that they cannot write well and therefore they do not write at all. But if we follow the dictum that a long journey starts with a single step, we have to start somewhere.
On those occasions where I have the opportunity to speak individually to faculty members about writing, I generally have two comments I make to them. The first is to write about what they are passionate about; that is, write about what interests you and what you wish to share with others. The second is, simply write. Don’t worry about whether it is well written or not; editors and colleagues can help you clean up grammar and spelling. The important thing is to get words down; once they are down, they can be revised. I do believe that there are many people who have written the Great American Novel. In their heads, not on paper.
Writing takes practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it. While I’ve published a fairly decent number of papers during the course of my career, I still had to write my first and submit it for review. I did; it was returned and I was asked to significantly revise that work. At that point, I could have given up and thrown in the towel, but a certain tenacity is necessary, an ability to handle criticism and not give up. Everyone writes papers that end up being revised. It is part of the process.
So let me ask you a question? What are you interested in? What do you have passion about, professionally? Why not share that with your colleagues and with our profession? I hope in this blog series to begin discussing the process of writing for publication. I’ll mix that in with entries addressing the art of teaching. We are all scholars, and together we can move our profession forward.