You’re browsing Science Direct on a Saturday evening, as you do. Now, here’s an intriguing abstract. Or, as us freelancers see it, a potential …
1. IDEA! Woohoo!
2. Then again, will anyone except me give a crap about this idea?
3. Can I be arsed to write anything this weekend, anyway?
4. Even if I can, am I going to a) pitch it to my editor, or b) put it on my own blog?
5. I could do with new shoes. Will try my editor.
6. Shit. Better write a pitch.
7. Reads outline of article
8. Reads first author’s research summary. Yeah, I get it now.
9. Pitch sent. Displacement ritual coffee-making may now commence.
10. Clicks autorefresh
11. Clicks autorefresh
12. Checks Twitter feed
13. Clicks autorefresh
14. Response! Accepted! Woohoo!
15. Shit. Better write the bloody thing.
16. Downloads full article PDF
17. Reads full PDF
18. Looks up from PDF. Gazes at radiator
19. Yeah, I don’t really understand this.
20. I never was that great at statistics.
21. I wonder if Dr X understands it?
22. Emails Dr X
23. Copies and pastes Dr X’s response into Word. That’s 80 words down of an 800-word piece
24. Displacement ritual coffee-making.
25. Reads PDF again
26. Oh, hang on. Yeah, I might be starting to get this.
27. Finds related papers
28. Reads the PDFs
29. Yeah, this is actually pretty bloody interesting stuff.
30. Drafts article. 700 words down.
31. Reads draft.
32. Yeah. Yeah, I think I get this well enough to talk to the corresponding author now.
33. Emails corresponding author. Briefly wonders whether freelancing means I can introduce myself as “ … and I write for the Guardian.” Decides it does.
34. Moment of British self-doubt re: point 28.
35. Thinks – fuck it, I will. I’ve got the Style Guide, anyway. I mean, I don’t know where it IS right now, but possession’s got to count for something.
36. Response from corresponding author. Woohoo!
37. Corresponding author is amazing. Why wasn’t I that brilliant, that articulate, when I was a scientist?
38. Realizes corresponding author is 11 years younger that me.
39. Displacement ritual coffee-making with added self-loathing.
40. Reads more PDFs
41. Re-writes draft with new, essential information that readers NEED to know.
42. Word count: 1287. Shit.
43. I wonder if my editor will mind me going over?
44. Meh, I think he’s used to it.
45. No – I will try to be professional.
46. Cuts out the howevers and the indeeds. Uses lots of contractions.
47. Word count: 1056. Shit.
48. Cuts out Naguib Mahfouz quote. Momentary regret that readers will now never know what a well-rounded science blogger I really am.
49. Word count: 897. Close enough.
50. Decides to sleep on it. Will send during tomorrow’s lunch break.
51. Notices grammatical howler. Removes.
53. Repeat steps 7 through 9, with a bit more of 34.
54. Editor notices second grammatical howler. Removes.
55. Published. Woohoo!
56. Tries to concentrate on Very Important New Exhibition. Fails.
57. Awaits reader comments. Vaguely remembers something about sticks and stones. Decides memory will not protect against the monster, galoopojng ERROR in my reasoning that some reader WILL notice. My career will be over. I will have been EXPOSED as a try-hard, also-ran.
58. Thinks: Lager: slanty glass. Ale: straight glass. Yep, still got my back-up skills.
59. Oh, wait … they’re not too bad so far. Huh.
60. Well, yeah, he’s got a point. To be fair.
61. Did I say that? I’m pretty sure I didn’t, mate.
62. Repeat steps 7 to 10. No new comments. I may be off the hook. Goes for walk along first floor galleries.
63. I don’t know why I do this to myself.
64. Vanity, probably. Or a desperate need for validation. Maybe I’m subconsciously hoping a TV producer will notice me.
65. Back at desk. Repeat steps 7 through 10. Two new comments.
66. Oh, thanks! Yeah, I thought it was a cool bit of research, too.
67. No, I don’t choose the images.
68. Really need to concentrate on Very Important New Exhibition. Switches off internet, and feels nerves begin to settle.
69. Give it a week. Maybe two. Then, head right back to Step 1.
70. It’s worth it. Honestly, and entirely seriously – it is.
*It wasn’t very mysterious to begin with, frankly