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Take this passage from Vivienne’s interview with Ed Yong:

How long does it take you to write a blogpost?

One to two hours to write each post depending on the topic.

Wow, that’s fast! Did it take you longer when you started?

It probably used t[o] take me two to three hours.

Reading this it occurred to me that many readers, at least those who have never tried writing a science blog post, might have no idea – or appreciation – of how long they can take to write.

And perhaps that science bloggers might be comforted by learning that others take ages too – ?

I’m not talking about newsy pieces or free-form brain dump, but science writing. The sort of thing that you see in ResearchBlogging, but not necessarily only the stuff that has their icon pasted on it. That niche that involves reading the stuff up and hunting down the material.

Why? – free-form and news pieces have different demands. Isis, for example footnotes a post on how she makes time to write with that it took 45 minutes. Good going. I might be wrong, but writing about research may be more time-consuming. For most of us, at least.

My posts takes ages, but that may say more about me fretting over the small stuff than anything else.

Sometimes single words hold me up as I check if that term really says what I think it does, if that factoid has sound backing. The evidence of that time won’t show up in the post, but it’s there. I’m sure that’s the same for others.

There’s the little fiddly non-writing things. Placing the links in. Manually coding a few bits that the Word Press editor has mangled. Hunting down nice illustrations.

Ed Yong was saying that familiar things are quicker to write about. I agree.

(They’re easier to write better, too. When I struggle with the subject, I find the writing looks like a battle too. I try ‘unstruggle’ the writing, but often just let it go. It’s a blog, and I’ve only so much time. I’d love to re-work how I blog so that I can cram proper editing time in.)

I relatively rarely write about my own specialist area, which has me fact-checking things that would be trivial to someone else. Aside from that day-to-day bioinformatics would have limited appeal, it’s a break from work. Let’s face it, ‘how I did data-munging today’ isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire. (Or go viral.)

Others spend all day in the lab doing experiments or in the office dealing with paperwork, and are writing their blogs in a new setting. I’ve usually already spent 10 hours on the computer by the time I get to my blog, or are facing that after I’m done if I’m writing in the morning, like today. But at least I can write about something different.

So…

How long does it take you to write a science blog post?

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(Readers, don’t get me wrong. Science blogging isn’t all hard work. It’s also an excuse to follow the things that strike you as interesting, important or bizarre. I’d never thought much about testing hearing in dolphins until this week, for example, or that, like rare animals, the gut bacteria of those with ancient diets are worth preserving. Or that changing a gene in an adult mammal might cause an ovary to become a testis. I got to think about a genetic variant that caused hearing to be temporarily lost if the person had a high temperature, prosopagnosia - where people can’t ’see’ faces, and laugh at pitcher plants adapted to be tree shrew toilets.)


Other articles on Code for life:

Writing tip — avoid promoting particular booksellers…

The best places to read

Who blogs on what, and why

Rain, sleet, snow, music and science blogs

Book sales, frumpy readers, and mental rotation of book titles