So today I had planned to start a new series on my blog called “The Secret Diary of a post-Doc, aged 31 and 3/4”. If the title didn’t give it away, it was to be a diary format posted once a month, detailing my world of post-Doc’ing in a style more akin to a certain similarly named novel than my usual fare.

The style of the writing was a bit different to what I normally work on and I wanted to do it as a way of trying out more writing techniques. However, as you have probably figured out by now, this is not that post. This is actually a post on why it’s this post and not that post – much meta, very blog, wow!

Shoulder devilWhen I started blogging about my work every week, I set down two clear boundaries. Firstly, not to lie or invent stories, and secondly not to make people in my non-blog life worry about being ‘written up’. Both of these supercede the main goal of writing content that is funny and entertaining.

Life thankfully is pretty darned entertaining and so over the last 2ish years I’ve always found it easy to stick to the rules and still have funny/interesting things to say. There has always been temptation to fudge things in the name of humour. There have been plenty of things I’d love to ’tweak’ to make funnier or fit a better joke.

What I do do [ED: heheh – doo doo!] is change people in stories quite a bit. From time to time I include stories about colleagues past and present and I feel quite strongly that they have a right to privacy and respect. So I’ll quite commonly change a story to protect them and not leave them feeling that I’m airing stories they’d prefer to keep to themselves.

For example, in a post earlier this year about New Year’s resolutions, I wrote a list of 5 things I was going to try better at this year. Actually, I’m not quite as inept a scientist as that post makes out and some of those items are things I hope others do better. But writing on the internet “argh, my colleagues never label bottles!!” is not particularly nice. So instead I made it a little more self-deprecating. Again, I don’t want to invent stories and problems, while also preserving professionalism with colleagues.

What this has to do with my diary style post is that I realised I can’t write a blow by blow diary without violating one of those two things.

Being a diary format there would be lots of day to day events that I would cover. Normally in long posts (like this one) obscuring people is relatively simple as it’s one event I’m writing up. However, strings of events would make it almost impossible not to be obvious who I was talking about. I can’t constantly write about my REF obsessed boss without making it pretty clear that I’m talking about the head of my group. *waves*

Bizare dinosaur

So a simple solution would be to use my life as ‘inspiration’ and write an alternative version up as a diary, which would then not be comparable to my existing colleagues and friends. But this would essentially be an idealised post-Doc world. Idealised around humour rather than a kind of perfect post-Doc world (that really would be fiction!) but still not a true record of what goes on here in my lab. Which, given that this blog is meant to be about my work and life as a post-Doc, wouldn’t really be in keeping. I feel Errant Science would then cross the line between ‘journaling’ and entertainment.

As a science blogger, I feel that posts which violate either of those rules will weaken their content and structure. I’m sure it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I fear death by a thousand cuts. If I bend the truth here and there then this blog would just become an exercise in comedy rather than an exercise in Outreach. Or if I abuse the trust of my colleagues then I’ll find that the lab becomes a much lonelier place to work in.

So min-rambling rant over. I hope this has been illuminating in to the world behind the blogging curtain. I’ll try and now come up with a new series that DOES actually fit some of my self-imposed rules, and get back to being mildly funny and less navel-gazey. One day I might re-visit the idea of the diary of a post-Doc as a fiction piece, but I don’t think it will be on ErrantScience.

Categories: ErrantWritings

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