How would one go about pursuing writing while pursuing mathematic/scientific majors?
I love to write, and I want to do much with it (perhaps like Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and their freakonomics books), but I'm pursuing degrees in statistics and earth sciences. How might I manage to still forge a semi career out of those fields? Of course, the obvious, do the freakonomics thing. Or the Gladwell thing. Or an earth science essayist thing. But, what else could I do, perhaps in college when I'll be so swamped with the immense focus, that I can still follow in a more creative path in regards to writing? #writing #english #statistics #earth-science
Start a science blog, or contribute to an existing one. Climate skeptic blogs, for example, will accept anything submitted to them, although publishing on those sites will do nothing for your scientific reputation. There are lots of examples out there to look at to see the types of articles that get published. There are examples out there of people who started out contributing to blogs and went on to paying gigs for major news outlets.
"I'm back!" said the terminator. Okay! "So am I," said the blogger. Well, sorry for the delay, but now I am back. Very interesting question brought up by Morgan J.: "How would one go about (paraphrasing) becoming a writer while, at the same time, pursuing a career in mathematics and/or one of the sciences?
Well, Morgan, I've done it, and it was not easy. Moreover, it took a long time, very long. Why? Well, not only do you have to learn how to write well, well enough to be noticed, but you've got to get educated in the literary fields too. Many hours of reading, including writing about those readings, doing so in such a manner, content and style, all of which brings you into the "fold."
As you already know, I assume, when one writes a piece of literature, there's some "text" that you create with your words, and I'm not meaning the visual structures within the sentences (like grammar and syntax). More to the point, I mean you've got to deliver textual meaning, which often refers to some specific intention or notion I your writing - for example, your thematic push might address some activist issue, say, else, maybe, a "beef" on animal rights, what ever! Don't forget any possible subtexts, which would certainly raise the stakes in your writings. These subtexts could be personal commentaries that you "voice" through your writing style, and they might be about certain opposite views contrasting your main text. Again, what ever turns you on. Yes! I have done it, mathematical physics, literature, literary theory (now it is called "Critical Studies," or something like that), film history and criticism, and let's not forget the writing of my Masters Thesis in Physics, titled "Evaluation of a geometrical transfer function for a defocused, forward scattering, light collecting system." Man! What troubles and tribulations did I go through, in writing that up!?! It took forever, nearly so, to learn how to write a technical piece, like the one mentioned above.
Yup! Consecutively, first came the BA in physics, then the Masters in physics, followed by a partial battle with the doctorate, of course in physics; unfortunately, my stepfather died, and I had to cut off my PhD physics studies, at least for a time. Later, I came back in the Material Sciences, at the doctoral level, learning how to design and build microprocessors, among others gadgets. Yet, something was gone out of me, replaced by the realities of daily life, including the money needed to survive; for I tried to get another Masters, doing so quickly but also efficiently, driven by my personal interests in digital camera technologies. However, even with the quick turn 'round in sight, I finally cut out of there and went in the fine arts, starting with photography (2 years), followed by film studies, where I wrote my guts out about subjects that, a few years earlier, I did not even know about. And finally I entered film school, at which time, I began writing about real contemporary folk stories, captivating tales of, say, urban heroes, good bad guys, "good," at least I thought so at the time. Indeed, strange stories about rumors spread by the residents of the local towns in Canadian Appalachia. Truly, some guys, outsiders, deep in the forest, constructing a hydrogen cannon facility, apparently for the Canadian and/or US Armies.
In the far reaches of deep mountain valleys, beyond the sight of people, for sure, they blasted away, sending projectiles flying horizontally at some kind of backstop targets. Who do you think that was, that is, heading that super cannon project? Well, let me tell you. It was none other than Dr.Gerald Bull, PhD in Aerodynamics Engineering (aerospace), ballistic expert par excellence, weapons specialists, and the scientist who headed the HARP and Babylon projects (look them up!). Unfortunately, as the rumors go, he was assassinated in Brussels by the Mossad, the Israeli equivalent to the CIA, for having built two super cannons in Iraq (at least one was fully built, the little Babylon, but the bigger version was never built, as far as I know), capable of striking a catastrophic blow to, say, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
So you see, Morgan, one can write and do mathematics too; though I learned my crafts in consecutive orders. You may be one of these super geniuses, time being not an issue and/or even with a photographic memory. But remember this my ambitious friend, recalling Matt Damon with Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting," no matter how many books you've memorized, equations ingrained in your mind, paintings spread across your visual cortex (coded by neural nets, of course), if you don't have the "naturalness of heart," not just cutting edge talent and the benefits of learned skills, you may have a hard time at it, that is, breaking through this extremely hard field of professional writing, I'm speaking about the elite writers here, which I assume you want to be. And why not!?!
I should have done it simultaneously, it would have saved me lots of time; indeed, counting the years, I spent all together nearly twenty years at honing my Physics and Writing, not to mention the time spent in the professional milieux. Think about what I am telling you, for let's say you're learning Physics, do you have any idea how much time I spent locked away in a tiny bedroom at school, several universities in fact, doing Lagrange calculations, classical Hamiltonian Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, later it was relativistic quantum field theory, not to mention gauge theory, fiber bundle theories (vector bundles, principal bundles, ...), and all that complex and real variables stuff? Man! What a long and strange trip it has been! Really!!
And I have yet to mention the writing sides of my Ulysses' voyage across the perilous seas of the writer's mind creative eye; actually, I never invent stories, especially those having to do with myths and heroes (though I often write about such content of forms in my subtexts), for I write from my own personal experiences, and let me tell you Morgan, I do have some doozies to tell. Indeed, I'm naturally a "from the guts writer," and I've been, relatively speaking, successful at it; though right now, I am struggling at pitching scripts (screenplays) here in Hollywood. But what new to that game, hey!?! Standard torturous daily grind, at making it as a recognized Hollywood screen writer. Well, I've burned myself out here, but my advice is "go right ahead, imitate me," if you dare! Best of luck, write me back, and thanks for "listening" to my writer's voice through the lines. Righto! Bye, bye!!
To add to Bill's answer -- which I think is a good one -- I would note that writers write. Seek out courses that will have you write papers that you might be able to rework for publication, and if you can, submit them to journals or blogs (or, as Bill suggested, start your own blog with your own voice). He also makes an important note about making sure that you do not mix your science with politics.
Also, technical writing isn't the only type of writing. Carry a notebook and write anything, whenever you are moved to do so.
Interesting pursuit of careers. Because of our climate changes, you might consider doing the stats for the death and destruction of our world with an online company. Take a look at Twitter, read the Scientific Journal. Regarding your creative writing, that would help you develop fans on Daily Kos, Huff Post, Raw Story and Alternet. Also, you might enjoy traveling and writing about what you see, and then email to the SF Chronicle, Washington Post and other newspapers once you develop your voice. Best wishes.