Writing Advice from a Neuroscientist Part 3: Don't Spread Yourself Too Thin

This is part 3 of a 4 part series about career advice my graduate adviser gave to his graduate students and postdocs. His advice is for people pursuing an academic science career, but I'm sharing the ones that also apply to writers.

Part 1: Choose your projects carefully
Part 2: Know the literature

Part 3: Don't spread yourself too thin, especially early on in your career

There's so many interesting topics in neuroscience that it's tempting to investigate them all! However, that's a bad idea for two reasons. First, as a young inexperienced scientist, it's hard enough to stay on top of the literature for one topic, let alone two. Second, you want to become well known and established in your subfield. Publishing two papers on memory and two papers on schizophrenia doesn't make you twice as impressive. It just makes you half as impressive to the memory and schizophrenia communities as you would have been if you had focused on one topic.

Likewise, as a young author, it may be tempting to genre hop. This is a bad idea for analogous reasons. First, it is easier to “keep up with the literature” in one genre as opposed to trying to understand the conventions, traditions, and unique challenges of multiple genres. Second, skipping from genre to genre takes away from your ability to build a solid fan base in one genre. You split your efforts, and you may end up with a weakly formed fan base in two genres, rather than a strong fan base in one. For more on genre hopping, read this blog entry from agent Nathan Bransford.

And finally, part 4.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great point. I have two genres that interest me most but I'm trying to develop one and write in just that one for a while. I will eventually want to branch out though.

    Glad I found your blog. It is a fun and informative read.