March 21, 2012

Follow a science writer using a motivation trick - a STEM career glimpse

If you wish you could make more progress on a long, hard project, try this trick. It helps me. Maybe it will help you too.

I use this trick when I'm writing a book, and it's hard to find or make the time after working as a scientist and translator, and taking care of family, friends, and home.

I keep a "hope journal." It's not a regular journal or diary. I write in it only what I've done to make progress on one project--nothing else--every day, for two weeks or two months or until the project is done. One hope journal is for only one project.

A hope journal begins as a blank notebook. I like small books for my small hands.

Hope journals
for The Night Olympic Tea, Horse Stories, and two future books
First, write the name of your project on the cover.

Then, every day, write down the date and what you did on that date to make progress.

I like to circle the date, and to write in blue or black every other day.
It's O.K. if you don't move mountains every day. Do your best to do something, every single day.

Writing in my hope journal at night was too hard because I was tired. Now I write, first thing in the morning, what I did the day before.
For example, I wrote in my hope journal for Horse Stories, about a story entitled "Paco of the Andes:"

- I revised Paco in my hotel room, in pencil on a printout.

- I revised Paco in the plane on the way home.

- I started entering my edits into my Word file, from the printout I carried on my trip.

- I finished entering edits and reprinted Paco.

I submitted "Paco of the Andes" to The School Magazine in Australia in August 2008. The editor accepted it for publication within two months. It was published within a year after that.

My horse stories are fictional, but I do research, check facts, and consult experts, exactly as I would for science writing.

The funniest entry I made was in my hope journal for The Night Olympic Team: I wanted to highlight background information, to make sure it didn't go on too long, taking readers out of the ongoing story. But I dropped the highlighter. It left a spot on the carpet. ARGH! I tried to get it off with spot remover. When that didn't work well enough... I gave the carpet a haircut!

Keeping a hope journal is as powerful for me as telling a friend what I will get done before we meet (read my post about that trick). The journal works better because it goes on day after day.

• For a ton of links about science writing, scroll down to LINKS AND MORE after you click here.


  1. That is a good idea, Caroline. I don't have the best discipline and maybe putting myself to task would make it happen more often! Thanks.

    1. Try choosing a special, lovely, just-the-right-color-for-the-project book, that you're going to love writing in.