MIT: "So, science writing?" Me: "WAH WAH WAH"

Seth Mnookin, for reasons best known only to him, decided to inflict me upon his Science Writing class at MIT. They asked great questions about getting into science writing, and doing it. I rambled. Seth transcribed. Here are the results, with some, er, director's commentary.


  1. Someone asked about balancing time spent on Twitter and other activities. My usual answer is that Twitter can be used to fill the interstices of the day, like time spent on the bus, or waiting for a phone call. But more broadly, don't see it as time-wasting. It's extraordinarily useful for journalists in many ways, including: pushing out your work, finding stories, making contacts, learning about critiques of your pieces, socialising, and...
  2. It's the new rummaging-through-sources'-bins!

    Then someone asked about things that I would like to have known when I started.
  3. Or rather, would have helped me. But it's amazing. go read it
  4. Pitching is exactly the type of thing that the Open Notebook would have helped with...
  5. And on Twitter:
  6. A good question, next. I paraphrase: When you write, do you get worried that the same story has been covered by or will be covered by other people?
  7. Whether it's that you can write really well, or you can write in an interesting or funny way, or that you can bring specialist knowledge, or that you can have fun with structure and narrative, or...
  8. being able to find my own voice and style was important.
  9. First is a position. It's not a sign of permanence or quality. It's a nice feather in your cap, but let's not make it more than it is. Better to write something that people will remember, or even come back to.