Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Writing: Celebrating 10+ years

Now here's a blast from the past. I found a link to an old article I wrote for New Scientist magazine back in 1996. I think it was the first time I ever got paid to write an article

I was researching my PhD at the time. And I had a particular interest in sports and the effects of exercise on psychological well-being. There are theories that exercise kicks your endorphins into high gear, which makes you feel good. There's even good research indicating that exercise can be as effective as drugs when it comes to treating moderate clinical depression.

Anyway, I wrote to the editor who commissioned me to write the piece. A few weeks later, I delivered the article, which was a couple of thousand words long. I was pretty proud of it.

And the editor hated it. Said it was awful and academic and unreadable!

But the editor spent a while coaching me and explaining how to write properly and in a non-academic style. So I'd been taught at university to use phrases such as: 'Research indicates that exercise is good for you'. But the editor explained that I didn't need to say 'research indicates that' when it comes to writing for the general public as opposed to crusy academics. Just say 'Exercise is good for you'.

It sounds so obvious now. But it wasn't obvious at all to me when I'd only written essays as part of my studies.

The editor helped me to to rewrite my article and eventually it was good enough for publication. But, more importantly, I learned from the editor how to write. And from that start, I learned enough to write for newspapers such as the Financial Times and Guardian. And then I started writing books. So the fact that I'm now writing my 14th book is basically down to the coaching I received from that editor. I wish I could remember the editor's name so I could write to say thank you!