Why I write in public

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Bora Z just posted a great video of Scott Rosenberg discussing ten myths about blogs. Watch it – it’s really fantastic.


We’re too quick to be peeved at the effrontery of people who dare to write in public, even when their work is rough or unpolished. They’re learning, and we are too.

This was certainly one of my biggest fears about blogging. I am a perfectionist, as you may have learned in my first post. I have determined my Myers-Briggs personality type, and the type profile states, “Their perfectionistic tendencies can lead them to refine and polish their ideas for so long that they never share them.”

Well, what’s the use of an idea if you never share or discuss it? Isn’t that part of the fun?

In fact, it’s one of those funny things about science and research. You could be a brilliant scientist and think brilliant thoughts and gather all sorts of brilliant data and results. But that brilliance isn’t going to get you very far if you’re not able to communicate your ideas to your colleagues.

Brilliant reclusive scientists are not an exception. We know and recognize their work because of the detailed journals and books in which they recorded or presented their ideas.

Group meetings are pretty terrifying for young grad students. I remember being nervous about presenting new data or discussing a line of experimentation that I hadn’t completely thought out just yet. There was a very real possibility that I would be asked hard questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer. (Also, scientists love cutting each other down to size. They call this discussion.) But this was part of the learning process! I can’t get real feedback or help until I’ve presented my thinking, methodology, and data.

Similarly, putting my writing out there is nerve-wracking. What if people don’t like it? What if people think I’m dumb?? As much writing as I might want to do in private, it will not force me to grow as quickly as writing in public. Knowing that my material will be read (and that my name is attached) pushes me to write at my best. Having this blog (and wanting to keep it active and current) encourages me to post whenever I have a >140 character idea in my head. And remembering that I learned most as a scientist when my colleagues or mentors offered honest feedback reminds me to write this up and get it out even if I think it’s less than perfect.

It is probably less than perfect. If you find grammatical errors or phrasing awkwardness, feel free to let me know. But rest assured – I am looking for these way harder than you are.

(For those curious about Myers-Briggs personality types, here’s a Wikipedia article on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I did not consult a professional to determine my Myers-Briggs type; rather, I worked my way through the career book “Do What You Are” by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. Knowing my personality type has provided some valuable insight and perhaps deserves a blog post of its own.)


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