The Scientist and the Author: Ashley reflects on the road so far. Picture of the middle of a road with white center lines.

“Writing is an exercise in failing better each time.”

I’ve spent the past few weeks reflecting on my writing: How far we’ve come, and the distance we still have to go.

It’s a double-edged sword, looking back at past edits and works. Especially these days. On the one side, you can take satisfaction in seeing the progress you have made—sentences that pop, characters that feel all too real, and compelling plot lines. But on the other, those big improvements I used to notice when we first began, have been getting smaller and smaller.

Nowadays, the differences are more subtle, and, on bad days (which all of us have), it can be hard to see progress being made. Yes, I’m a better writer. There’s no doubt about it. But being a scientist, and relying on evidence to show the hallmarks of improvement, sometimes it’s hard to observe it.

The best I can do is take satisfaction in how far Sarah and I have come since we started all those years ago. Even in the past two years, when we rekindled our passion for writing and took our craft more seriously.

But even on days when I feel stagnant, I take solace in the knowledge that writing is something I enjoy doing. It isn’t a chore. When I sit down every evening at around 9:30pm to do my couple hours of writing, I’m never annoyed or frustrated. It’s the time when I can put words on the page, and get lost in the world Sarah and I have created.



‘Writer’ isn’t a title many scientists would give themselves. We write grants, papers, and theses, but would never term ourselves ‘authors’ at least in the traditional sense of the word. And I’ve tended to agree with this sentiment. When Sarah and I sent our work away to some publishing houses, and they asked for previous publication, I thought, well…I don’t have any.

My husband was the one who reminded me that I had ten or so peer-reviewed scientific articles. But somehow, it hardly felt the same as a published book, short story, or poem. It felt like my science life and my writing life were worlds apart. Never intersecting.

Should it be this way?

I couldn’t give you the answer. I’m an aspiring ‘author’ and a real scientist. I’m an expert in synthetic organic chemistry and electrochemistry. Not writing.

But, this week, I’ve been grant writing. And since I’ve been spending all my daylight hours writing scientifically, and a good chunk of my nighttime hours writing creatively, it has put a lot of this into perspective.

Why can’t creative writing and scientific writing overlap? Why can’t I be a bit of both; part-writer, part-scientist?


A creative scientist. Is this an oxymoron? The picture shows flowers in beakers and flasks.