As I enter into my fifth year of trying my hand at this wild ride called freelance science writing, I’ve decided to make some changes to my business. Some of this is behind-the-scenes and some will be pretty apparent. I am still in the process of revamping my business plan, but here are few of the changes that are in store:
In developing and changing my business plan, I made some changes to my mission statement. I am still finalizing the language and details, but here is my working statement:
There is something powerful in a well-told story or an in-depth article. Good writing is good communication and good teaching. No matter how complex the subject matter may be, a good writer can bring the reader to the subject in such a way that the reader walks away with a greater understanding than when he or she first approached it.
The more immediate purpose of my business is to bring the subject, namely science and bioethics, to the reader. Sometimes this involves translating technical scientific material into layman’s terms. Sometimes this involves creative use of analogies or a narrative arc in a journalistic-style article. Sometimes this may involve telling a fictional story to convey a larger idea.
The broader purpose of my business is to convey the wonder of nature and untangle the complexities involved in both appreciating science and technology while also approaching these subjects in a conscientious and thoughtful way that honors God and maintains the dignity accorded to all human beings.
My blog will be changing to be more “announcement-like” and the posts will be shorter. Since I update the news, I will be using my blog to highlight news items or research articles that are important, but are not necessarily the top story at major media outlets. I have been using social medial (Twitter: hzeiger, LinkedIn: Heather Zeiger, and Facebook) to announce any new articles or publications and will be using this blog to also make announcements in hopes that these outlets can work together. I am working with my web designer set up alerts so readers who are interested can stay informed without having to risk falling into the distraction hole that is social media (ooo…cat pictures).
I am working on a new page on my website called Google FAIL and Other Ways Technology Won’t Save Us. This will be examples of Google searches that didn’t work. Some of the posts will be funny, like when Google wouldn’t tell me why people care about Am-241 content in nuclear waste, something I needed to know for a research summary. Some will be poignant, like trying to Google-search questions about contentment for my post in Signs of the Times. Others will, hopefully, help people practice discernment when using the internet. The point of this page is to remind people that not only can technology NOT save us, it doesn’t do a very good job of answering seemingly simple questions about life.
Finally, I am working on a shift in my mindset. To explain this, I’ll use Stephen Covey’s discussion on time management. Stephen Covey is the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read his book about ten years ago, and admittedly, I didn’t really “get” his quadrants for how to organize your time. Once I became a researcher, I sort of started getting it. Being a writer drilled it into me even more. If you haven’t read his book, Covey divides to-do items into four categories: urgent & important, not urgent & important, urgent & not important, and not urgent & not important. Urgent & important are the major crises or fires that we all have to put out from time-to-time or those big deadline items that have to get done. Not urgent & important are things like long-term projects and planning. Urgent & not important are things like (some) phone calls, (some) email, (some) meetings, etc. Not urgent & not important are things like social media. Most people tend to spend their time in the last two unless a crisis or deadline approaches.
I tend to be deadline-driven but not necessarily in the good way. I would focus on the urgent & important stuff, like updating bioethics.com or getting out the next phys.org article, but would neglect the not urgent & important stuff like writing a blog post, working on a long-term article, writing a pitch, or writing fiction. I kept putting off the writing in favor of check-it-off-the-to-do-list things. The result is that I have been lax about writing blog posts, even for companies that want me to write for them, and I have a couple of articles that are still unpublished because I need to re-work and re-pitch. I have neglected to send a pitch to several outlets that would be great venues for a science writer and whose topics would be right up my ally. I have put off turning one of my paper presentations into a book even though a colleague who has published several books in a related field thought it was a good idea.
These are some of the new things for 2016. I’ve also got some specific, tangible goals including a couple of articles coming down the pipeline that I will announce on this blog.