Tips is a series that aims to provide up-and-coming science writers with, well, tips to aid them in their budding careers. The series will attempt to link out to existing resources available online.
Every week, Matter, a new longform publisher that focuses on “in-depth journalism about the ideas that are shaping our future,” publishes a short interview with an awesome writer as part of its wonderful interview series, entitled “The Most Powerful Drug”. The questions are few but the answers are simple, delicious and highly motivating. Basically, these interviews are a great way to get inspired on a weekly basis.
Those writers are just people. Brilliant people, yes, but just people. That’s the thing that struck me when I read the interviews in Matter’s “The Most Powerful Drug” series. The series already features short interviews with Alexis Madrigal, David Dobbs and Tim Harford, amongst others—writers I regularly read and I’m regularly wowed by. These writers are constantly phenomenal and, to many up-and-coming writers, they are whom we look up to.
But to see that their struggles and our struggles, that their motivations and our motivations, do overlap, gives the sense that they’re not too dissimilar from us after all. And if they aren’t dissimilar, maybe, just maybe, it is within reason to aspire to their talents. Good news is that in “The Most Powerful Drug,” they share some advices to help us out.
Here are some morsels of wisdom, if you will, from some of those we look up to:
“Try and see the world from the eyes of the person you are writing about.” - Jon Ronson.
“Follow your own curiosity and say the most interesting stuff first [...] So forget that hypothetical reader and write about the things that are most interesting to you. Then, make it your mission to explain to readers why they should care about this thing you find interesting.” - Alexis Madrigal.
“[N]ever underestimate your reader’s intelligence or overestimate her knowledge.” - Mark Henderson.
“And once I start writing, I try to follow Hemingway’s dictum to end each day’s writing in the middle of a passage or even a sentence, someplace where I know what is going to happen next, so that when I sit down next day I know exactly what I’m going to write.” - David Dobbs.
“[W]hen you have a good structural idea, or a good turn of phrase comes to you, note it down immediately — even if you are falling asleep, or in the shower.” - Tom Standage.
In case you missed all of those links above, here’s the link to main page of “The Most Powerful Drug” series. It’ll show you that writing is a powerful drug—quite literally.