Tag Archives: anxiety

Leaping outside of your comfort zone…

If you have the opportunity to do something you want to, but it scares you, do it – especially if it scares you.

This is the kind of advice you frequently find on the internet (and increasingly from annoying Facebook posts/links…). In general I think it’s probably right.

Get out of the house, do something different, try a new sport/activity/food whatever. It’ll be good for you.

It can be some bloody scary magic…

But how does it feel actually doing it?

Fucking terrifying.

As you may know if you’ve been here before, a few months back I officially finished (resigned) working at Mega Corp., and decided to live off of the “fat” I’d managed to accumulate in my time there, and began trying to ‘get a foot in the door’ as some kind of freelance science writer. I knew this was never going to be easy – there’s too many good writers already out there for a start.

I didn’t get right into finding stories, writing and pitching after I finished work, largely as there was another fairly life changing event around the same time.

I’ll not go into details too much here, but let’s just say it involves – like all good stories – having met a girl I find amazing (and who seems similarly keen on me: presumably indicative of some kind of hidden mental instability*). One problem though: she’s just moved back home to Canada to start her PhD.


So, I spent nearly a month over there with her, and will be going back again soon for a month or two. In and of itself, this shouldn’t be detrimental to getting some writing done and some articles pitched.

I have managed to get a lead on a few interesting stories, and have made one pitch, which was very graciously knocked back, with a “we liked the idea, though it’s not really for us, but do please keep them coming.”

Don’t worry. I will. And better.

I also got my website/blog built, finalised and live for the actual science writing, once written, which you can find here. Sciencehubb.co.uk – geddit? Not too much there right now, a couple of bits from my uni MSc and one newer one from the other day.

What else have I been up to?

Well, helping to try and organise some kind of science writing course with a group of folks from Oxford Uni and – anxiously – looking at how I can get over to Canada more permanently, which has taken up a fair bit of my time. Time I will gladly spend trying to make it work. But it does eat into some of that “fat” I had ready to keep me fed, housed and clothed, shortening how long it will be there.  It’s worth it though.

The good news is that under the current immigration system I score enough points (just) to be admitted. The bad news is they stopped receiving applications in July, pending a revised system. Something tells me this will probably work against me. Fucksocks again.

This shift in priorities worries me. Moving to Canada is a priority, and I wouldn’t have it any other way; but it does conflict with my previous plans if I can’t get ‘permanent residence’ status.

The fact I don’t have a regular desk/lab bench job anymore is awesome as it gives me the flexibility to be able to shoot off Canada for a few months at a time (where I can at least still find stories and write), but, at the same time, I’m not bringing in any money myself yet. And I don’t know when, or how much I will be able to.

This puts an increasing pressure on me to somehow make money from this enterprise of being a science writer. This was never going to be easy, nor offer short-term to financial stability. I am finding this kinda stressful at the moment; when no one even knows my name right now, and with little written material ‘out there’.

So, immediate plans are thus:

  • Keep an eye out for new/proposed Canadian immigration rules (game changer)
  • Write, write, and write
  • Read, read and read
  • Find as many places to pitch to as possible
  • Pitch!
  • Get clippings wherever and whenever I can to show to editors

And that is what’s going on right now. If you have any advice, please let me have it, otherwise, just cross your fingers for me…

*Sorry if you’re reading this. I have the utmost confidence you are sane. 😀


Coffee shops, science and interviews

It’s odd.

Not quite real yet.

I feel like it’s the weekend, not like some “new era” in my life.

Yesterday, after waking up wondering what day it is and setting this blog up, I decided I’d go and join the ranks of people who hang about in Starbucks with their laptops out doing important stuff.

It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

I discovered 5 things:

  1. In Oxford it’s wall to wall students. They are pretending to work. Really it’s the 21st centuries equivalent of hiding a comic in a text book. You give off an air of busyness, but really they’re all just procrasti-facebooking
  2. Coffee goes colder quicker than you’d think when you’re trying to work. I hate cold coffee
  3. I feel guilty if I don’t get a new coffee within 10 min of finishing the last. This may be my own unique brand of stupidity, or just one of the many socially crippling effects of being English. I’m not sure.
  4. Constantly buying coffee at £2.50 is a good way to bankrupt yourself
  5. Despite the cost and people, you can actually get some work done

Straight after this I went to the Oxford SciBar, a monthly event I help organise where we get a scientist (or similar) in to do a 30min chat for the general public about whatever interesting science they’re up to at the moment, at the pub. It’s great, we get people ranging from window cleaners and graphic designers to retirees and they all get a chance to ask questions in an informal atmosphere. Chatting to them afterwards is always fun too, to get thier perspective and questions.

This month it was a guy calle Jan De Neve from University College London, an economist and behavioural scientist. The topic? Happiness: Causes and consequences. It was great, and packed out the pub.

I also had to interview Jan afterwards. And at short notice introduce him to crowd, which I wasn’t exactly prepared for, and as usual, was shaking afterwards. Most odd and unpleasant. Was more nervous than when I’ve stood up to speak in front of whole conferences, or in “important meetings” with clients or senior staff at work.

It was far better when I did the “thankyou’s” stuff at the end when I’d had more time to prepare and think about it.

As for the interview, well, I was also a little anxious about doing this, as I want to ask sensible intelligent questions and not sound like a douche, but, well judge for yourself, here it is (~8 min long):

Once again, I was talking too fast, occasionally going”eeeerm”, “hmm”, “mmm” and “hahaha”, which is all fine for a chat, but bloody annoying when you’re recording it and want it to sound good. Fortunatly, i get to do some “de-umming” when I edit it, but, well, let me know what you think below. As for me, c’est la vie…

*add to list of things to improve on*

And the whole talk and interview can be found here (for May ~60min):


He also has a very similar TEDx talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po_YJZW7VJs&feature=player_embedded

He was a really good speaker, and everyone seemed to enjoy it, so check it out yourself.

I think this could also be my first “feature” to write about all the various bits of science of happiness there is, so I’ve started digging a little deeper into it. Would be nice to come up with some practicals tips for people maybe?

I dunno.

What I do know is that the few pints of beer I had left me feeling an bit “wooly” this morning, not hungover, just a bit slow. So maybe I should be avoiding doing that.

It is quite nice though…