This post is not about Earth science, it’s about me. This is part of a relay race: an exploration into how and why people blog about science. Search for #mywritingprocess on Twitter and you find hundreds of bloggers who have tackled this relay.
The idea is to answer a few questions and pass the baton.
I would not have participated in this exploration if I had not been handed a baton, and – in a moment of sheer madness – accepted it. So now I must do my part and pass it on.
Step 1 – who tagged me?
I was tagged by Sarah Boon, who blogs on blogging, nature writing, snow hydrology, mental health and photography. Sarah’s blog is also part of Science Borealis (in fact, Sarah is the genie behind Science Borealis), where my blog humbly also finds a home. I have never met Sarah in person, but we have built up a friendship of sorts in virtuality and I enjoy her writing and admire her frankness.
Step 2 – Answer Four Questions:
a) What do you generally blog about?
The title of my blog pretty much defines its content: Earth, Science and Society. I am a sedimentary geologist, but am more interested in where earth science intersects with societal issues than in the science itself (I was a prof once, but Academia was not for me: I resigned from a tenured position). I find that too much writing on the management of our one and only planet uses humanity as the vantage point instead of the planet itself and that irk has been with me pretty much since grade 8. One of the quotes in my school diary that year (I don’t remember the author) went something like this: “nature scoffs at human suffering and only considers her own greatness”. I suppose it was only logical that a child growing up in an outdoorsy family of avid readers would be interested in earth science and writing. My life long fascination with that quote motivates my writing.
Occasionally I take a side road and write about women in (earth) science or about science and art (stay tuned – my next post will take you there).
b) how does your blog differ from others’ blogs in the same genre?
I really don’t have a good answer to that question. Most earth science bloggers that I follow a bit use their blog in the context of their work, as for example Dave Petley, Matt Hall and Evan Bianco at Agile, or the Deep Sea Discovery teams on the JOIDES Resolution. I suppose each blog is pretty unique, because blogging is more personal than any other form of publishing. I am not going to dare a comparison.
c) why do you write what you do?
My professional career is winding down. Way back when I was a student, I had dreams of being a science journalist, inspired by the superb weekly science special of my favourite newspaper. Then I became utterly fascinated by my own profession, realized that writing was very very hard and that I didn’t have a natural ability for it. Next I moved to the US and had to learn to write scientific papers in my second language. Simultaneously with all that came the parent phase. But now life is balanced and I have time. If you have learned something, you must share it (thank you, Maya Angelou). I have learned a lot, so I am trying to go back to that dream. There is no excuse – the blogosphere is out there.
d) how does your writing process work? how do you decide what to blog about? What is blogworthy to you?
I aim to write two blog posts per month and that turns out to be a tall order. One monthly post is on whatever hits me, the other one is part of a series of reviews under the header “Canadian Earth Science for @PMHarper”. The argument for writing this series is here. My aim is to cover the breadth of Canadian Earth Science both in terms of content and authors. It should run for another year or so. Selecting an article is not very spontaneous, I keep a spreadsheet of topics and authors to help me map a balanced progress.
I think a long time about how to tackle an issue and where to start. It takes me forever. Without the structure that I dictated to myself, I think I would quickly give up. Too hard! But I do want to. Clicking “publish” is exhilarating.
I have never taken a writing class, but I have had some very tough editors. I write in my second language. These are two distinct disadvantages. I do hope to enroll in a science writing course some time in the not too distant future. Writing is incredibly hard, but I want that challenge.
Step 3: Tag another writer or 2 to answer the questions the week after you. Give a one-sentence bio of each, and link to their websites
I am tagging Graham Young of Ancient Shore, the other Canadian earth science blogger on Science Borealis. He is curator of geology at the Manitoba Museum.