Bobbie Johnson at Medium:
What’s the one thing you’ve learned over time that you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish someone told me I shouldn’t be making ships in a bottle.
To write about anything well, you have to do a lot of research. Even just trying to work out the chronology of a few years of one person’s life can take hours of interviews. If you’re writing about a scientific debate, you may have to trace it back 100 years through papers and books. To understand how someone sequenced 400,000 year old DNA, you may need to become excruciatingly well acquainted with the latest DNA sequencing technology.
Once you’ve done all that, you will feel a sense of victory. You get it. You see how all the pieces fit together. And you can’t wait to make your readers also see that entire network of knowledge as clearly as you do right now.
That’s a recipe for disaster. When I was starting out, I’d try to convey everything I knew about a subject in a story, and I ended up spending days or weeks in painful contortions. There isn’t enough room in an article to present a full story. Even a book is not space enough. It’s like trying to build a ship in a bottle. You end up spending all your time squeezing down all the things you’ve learned into miniaturized story bits. And the result will be unreadable.