There's just one of me. As far as I know, anyway...

It's been a while since I've posted a meme here, but I was recently tagged by Dr. Vector and I simply must continue this one. Indeed, I've been hit with the Writing Meme, which says that I should;

  • 1. List 3 writing tips
  • 2.Tag 3 people whose writing style you admire.

When Matt tagged me he wrote "I want to know how he writes so damn much all the time. It's embarrassing!" so I'll use that as a starting point;

  • 1. Coming up with little gimmicks like "Photo of the Day" or "Osteometric Point of the Day" help to keep me consistent. (I nearly wrote "help to keep my regular," but I don't want to describe what I do here as blogarrhea.) They usually don't contain any brilliant prose or very much substance, but once I got started with PotD (for instance) I felt like I had to keep going with it. Having thousands of photographs floating around on my hard drive helps, too, but even if I didn't I'm sure I could come up with something else.
  • 2. Writing online is a way of distilling my thoughts, and I can write far faster on a computer (thus nearly keeping up with what's going on in my head) than I can with a pen and paper. (My penmanship has become appreciably worse as I've been writing online, but that's primarily because I feel compelled to write so fast in order to make sure I don't lose any of ephemeral ideas.) Once I've typed out what I was thinking of, I can then go back and edit, turning things over in my mind to see if they really get at what I'm trying to say. It's almost as if I'm trying to explain the things I'm learning about to myself, and if I can't understand what the hell I'm trying to say then I didn't do a very good job explaining it to anyone else! What ends up on this blog is slightly more formalized than my unfiltered thoughts, but I've found that writing is a very useful tool for helping me think.
  • 3. By now most of you know that I tear through books like nobody's business, the titles in the "currently reading" section usually changing every few days or so. (Indeed, since Sunday I've read a book a day for the entire week, but given that they've all been between 150 and 200 pages that's not much of a feat.) Given so much input, I guess it's not surprising that I'm relatively prolific. Writing about what I'm presently learning not only helps me remember the material better, but this blog then acts almost like a searchable memory bank that I can later mine when I forget something.

    As an example, at the moment I'm reading Martin Rudwick's Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes, and in the course of reading Rudwick's translations of Cuvier's work I came to something of a startling realization that would not have occurred to me otherwise. I'm going to blog about it later in the day, especially since I may not be right and would welcome the input of people who might know some details that I yet to come across, but I definitely would not have been struck by Cuvier's ideas to the same degree if I just accepted the textbook treatment and didn't look into what he actually wrote. If I didn't read as much as I did, I probably wouldn't write nearly as much (or at least have much of value to say).

    Here's my tags;

    • 1. I know Darren doesn't usually carry on memes, but I have to say that I admire his deep knowledge of the literature and his ability to essentially write review papers every few days. I'm sure with a little tweaking the content of Tetrapod Zoology could be made into a very informative book (or even a slew of academic papers), and it seems that every time I learn about a new variety of animal Darren already knows about it and has written up a review of all the important research on the creature to date!
    • 2. I have to admit that I don't know very much about genetics, and the field has generally seemed a bit intimidating. That's why I admire T. Ryan Gregory's ability to make sense of topics on Genomicron in a thoughtful and engaging manner that would otherwise make my eyes go cross and send me muttering to the floor. I especially liked his critique of an error that recently appeared in Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and his recently published paper on evolution as "fact,theory, and path," and I hope that I can be even half as good at making hard science accessible and understandable as he does.
    • 3. The very mention of the word "physics" usually starts to make my brain shut down as a protective mechanism, but Jennifer Oulette's blog Cocktail Party Physics is another recent favorite of mine that makes a topic I previously avoided like the plague more fun and interesting. I know that many, many bloggers have already mentioned that they liked how she viewed her blog as a "writing lab," and I find such an approach to be especially rewarding, too.
  • So there you have it; that's how I do it. There's no team of writers working around the clock, although I might just be sleep-blogging and not remembering it the morning after. I couldn't imagine not being able to write, though, and perhaps some day soon I'll be able to string the seemingly disparate ideas I've shared on this blog into something more substantial.

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