Better Late Than Never: New Directions for Watershed Moments

Icefields Parkway (photo by me)

I didn’t get today’s blog post written yesterday, in large part because I’m rethinking what I want to write about here and what I want to share. As I work on revamping my webpage under a new web platform and hosting service, I’ve been thinking hard about how I can make this reboot work best for me.

I feel as though writing has become too “easy” because I’ve picked personal topics to write about: our well and the drought, my garden, my mental health issues, etc. These are topics I can write a blog about in an hour or two and I’m done.

But I’m not sure that’s what I want this blog to be. I’d like it to be more thoughtful – maybe writing about books I’ve read and the insights I’ve gleaned from them, or writing about research articles I’ve come across that I think would be useful to discuss. I’d also like to talk about current events and their potential impact on not just me, but society as a whole.

Perhaps that’s the key – I don’t want to write about me all the time. I don’t think it’s healthy and I don’t think it’s something that readers will come back for. I think readers want to read some of me – i.e., hear my “voice” – but not every detail of my life (not that I share that anyway, but sometimes it’s a bit confessional).

A few years ago I started a paper.li for western water and forests and science communication. For those of you who don’t know, paper.li’s are like a weekly newsletter that collates articles, vidoes, and images from across the web that relate to the keywords you’ve provided and to the Twitter users or other social media users to which you’ve linked. They collate all this information and send it to your email for reading. I hadn’t read it for a while because it felt like too much information, but I started reading it again recently and realized it provides a lot of insight into the topics I’m interested in (water, forests, wildfire, writing/scicomm), and links to key articles that I often don’t see on the firehose that is Twitter. I feel like I could take some contemporary articles from that newsletter and expand on them with my own knowledge.

I also feel like I’d like to get back to science communication. I’ve been drifting into literary science writing, which I actually quite like. I have pieces at Narratively and Catapult that I think are some of my best work at making science mainstream, and I have an essay coming out in December at Lady Science that will also make science mainstream.

So the science communication I’d like to get back to is not just the science communicator’s perspective on things, but how we can get scientists on board to understand how science communication works. And also how we can slide science communication into literary nonfiction to reach a broad audience that might not otherwise learn about things like climate change, glacier retreat, decreasing water supplies, etc.

For the latter, I’m particularly interested in the work that Amy Brady (editor of the Chicago Review of Books) does for her Burning Worlds podcast, in which she interviews writers of climate fiction of all genres that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. In fact, it would be great to do a Q&A with Brady for Terrain.org‘s Interviews section, as I think she would have a lot of interesting things to say.

The other thing about blogging is that it’s starting to interfere somewhat with my book writing. I have most of my book proposal finished – I just need to polish up my existing sample chapter and write a second one. Sometimes I think that, instead of blogging, I should be working on my book. But at the same time I find that blogging gives me a break from the book and allows me to cover other topics that I think are interesting – topics that might even make it into the book!

Finally, there is the issue of having enough spoons to do what I want. I want to write my book. Write blog posts. Update my website. Write book reviews and essays. Exercise daily. Garden. But I can’t do it all. I just don’t have it in me to do all of those things every day, especially lately. So I have to prioritize, and I’m not always good at picking the thing that’s best for me that day.

As I’ve been working on my new website, I thought I’d collate all the posts from this site into a book. Unfortunately it’s too long for the automated book creator – I have over 300 blogs hosted on this site. But as I was going through them after exporting them into individual Word files (yes, painstaking, but I couldn’t find a good app that would automatically go through and make them into a book), I realized I have a lot of good content. Content that I can revamp and rewrite for different outlets out there. I know no one wants already published work, but there are lots of pieces I can combine and/or rework into something more substantial, meaty, and good to read.

These are the types of posts I’m aiming for on my blog going forward. We’ll see how it goes.

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