Passion in any career is essential as it drives you to achieve your goals, enjoy your work and overcome obstacles. When choosing your subjects in Year 12, we are usually advised to ‘follow your passion’ or ‘find something you love to do and you’ll never feel like you have worked a day in your life’. When I finished school, science wasn’t my first choice. I undertook 2 years of a law degree before deciding it was not for me and changed direction to pursue a career in genetics. There I found my passion.
What usually draws people to research is the desire to make a difference to those around them and uncover something meaningful that has never been seen before. I know for me, that was the case. The one thing that made the long inevitable hours of failed experiments and grant rejections worth it was the passion and deep love I had for what I was doing. Like many early-mid career scientists, I enthusiastically leapt into the laboratory every day and could sit at the bench for hours performing experiments and troubleshooting failed results, being driven by curiosity and thirst for knowledge. However, when it came to producing a piece of writing that summarised my accomplishments, I found it surprisingly difficult to convey the impact of my discoveries and love for my work. So, I began thinking about strategies that I could use to effectively channel and communicate my passion and creative niche through my scientific writing.
Do you need passion to be a successful scientist?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, passion is defined as a 'strong and barely controllable emotion'. If you think of this in the context of scientific writing, the excitement that comes from synthesising your conceptual journey and sharing these important discoveries with the broader scientific community, should easily leap off the page. Ideally, your narrative should reflect a sense of achievement when the experiments you spent months and sometimes years developing are finally synthesised to a well-crafted masterpiece. However, for some, writing can become a chore and more often forms an obligatory part of their scientific career rather than a joyful activity. The initial excitement and passion become intertwined with continual pressures to obtain research funding and produce publications which often causes a significant mental block, leaving many staring endlessly at an empty page.
“Science is not only a discipline of reason but also one of romance and passion” – Stephen Hawking
Successful researchers and innovators are almost always motivated by passion. In fact, studies have shown that being passionate about your career is one of the leading key qualities of a successful scientist and is positively correlated with achievement. However, passion and success are a two-way process – it is easy to be passionate when your achievements are being recognised and rewarded.
How to demonstrate passion in your scientific writing?
In today’s intense research environment, scientists need to be effective communicators to gain a competitive edge. Whether you are drafting a manuscript to submit to a first-class journal or creating a grant application, your narrative needs to be clearly understood and trusted by your audience. The easiest way to do this is to write with sincerity and enthusiasm –after all – research is like a sales pitch; everyone knows when they are getting swindled.
The ability to write is not something that most people are born with but rather a skill to be practiced and cultivated. When training scientists, supervisors usually focus on the experimental methods used to solve the scientific puzzle when, in fact, the act of communicating this thirst for knowledge is equally as important. Throughout my years of performing research, there are a few strategies I have embraced to communicate my passion through my scientific writing:
Think about who your research is benefiting in the longer-term. Be engaged with end-users of your research and understand their needs. My research was focused on congenital diseases, and I always had patients and their families in the forefront of my mind. This allowed me to write with a focus, and work towards a meaningful outcome, which extended well beyond just the box on my to-do list.
Craft your narrative using language that is easy to understand and connect with your audience. Where appropriate, provide detailed explanations and use emotive terms to take the audience on a journey where, at the end, they will understand the importance of your research.
Practice your writing skills. Be patient, take risks and don’t be a perfectionist with your writing straight away. Having something on paper is better than nothing at all so it may take a few drafts to craft the perfect narrative. Sometimes the passion for your masterpiece will only be reignited once the whole story is down on paper.
Set realistic goals for your writing tasks. Give yourself plenty of time to draft your piece of writing since time-pressured deadlines can often dampen your passion and drive.
The good news is that you are not alone. Colleagues, mentors, and other experienced writers who are on their own tangential writing journeys, can help guide you along the way. Just when you think you are stuck; a new article or data analyses will rekindle your passion and help bring your discoveries to life through the words on the page. Finding your passion for scientific writing is really one of the most rewarding adventures you will undertake since it provides a sense of certainty allowing you to navigate the challenging roads ahead.