Writing is a tool for thinking (as we know but sometimes like to forget)

Last week plans for 2014 became clearer, and my main job is to write. I knew that already but setting thesis submission dates an all that jazz really make it clear.

I am working on a number of drafts, including one (and another to come) on my work this summer in Montreal. Although I tried hard to have a good outline, and tried to apply as much fo “writing science” as a could, not surprisingly I fell short. It isn’t really falling short of course because many drafts are always necessary to create a good manuscript, but of course we all want to make that process go a little faster and make our mentors (and ourselves proud).

In the next version some of my figures and questions need to move to supplemental material in order to make a shorter and tighter story line.

Although I know I am so lucky to get such great feedback and I know I can make the manuscript so much stronger, I always have a moment of discouragement and disappointment when I get comments back. I think “darn it, I thought I did better this time, or I don’t think I can make it happen”. My new objective is to shorten the amount of time I feel those negative emotions and become more mentally resilient.

I have also come up with a plan to try to slowdown and make it easier to be mindful about my next draft. I didn’t “come up” with it per say, I am integrating some techniques my advisor suggested with some my friends did, and what I learnt Switch about trying to actually make change real. Specifically I tried to think of instances where I was able to edit successfully, and they tried to break that down into manageable steps and small goals.

My plan:

  • Make the big revisions (the cuts and other low hanging fruit) on the computer
  • Print the draft out
  • Read out loud and make notes with a pen
  • Transfer pen corrections to the computer (which should also serve a 3rd round of revision)
  • Read through the whole thing
  • If there are structure or story problems go to pen and paper

And in other science communication news:

In the process of getting my thesis done, I will need to give a seminar talk. I have read (and shared on the blog) some great resources about making better presentations. I made a draft ppt this week and definitely realize that I haven’t integrated all the lessons I want to yet. I read this great post on presentations and it has renewed my inspiration to create a second (and hopefully better) draft of my talk.

My dance piece is only one and a half weeks away and things are getting real. This week in rehearsal we had a photographer amongst us to start capturing what we are doing (both for promotional materials and for documentation of the process and of the piece itself). This was also the 1st time we had people in the studio seeing the work. It was stressful but does make it feel like the project is real. Trying to combine dance, narration, props, video, and have a cohesive story (and in my case scientifically accurate one) is no small feat (and here is a successful example I think). I am looking forward to being able to compare the live vs video versions of the piece on how it may change the way the message is experienced.

Ad for Art Souterrain in the metro (I can’t believe I am part of it!)

(I also gave a radio interview this week about my research on phosphorus and urban agriculture in Montreal in french and promoted the dance piece. I think it went relatively well although I noticed that when I am nervous I say “en fin de compte” a lot, aka “in summary” or “in the end” in french and I will try and work on this for the next round of interviews (hopefully once the papers are published).)



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