The big one: what I learned from my first long form feature
Remember that huge health care feature that I kept using as an excuse for not blogging? Well, it's finally live! You can read it here. It's about the myriad ways the world of health care is changing, from nifty digital health things like "smart" helmets that can detect concussions to gene therapies that can target malfunctioning pieces of DNA.
It was my first long form magazine piece, and I learned a lot while reporting and writing it. For example: it's not a great idea to approach a 5,000-word story with a huge, vague, unwieldy idea and try to whittle it down to something that makes sense. Note to self: try it the opposite way next time.
I learned a TON about biotech, the FDA, how certain diseases function and how DNA can be manipulated to change those functions. I met and talked to MIT scientists, Pfizer executives, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and hedge fund managers, and some people who fancy themselves a combination of two or more of those things. I traveled to Boston and Cambridge and visited a genetics lab and a WeWork office, which were all exciting in their own ways.
In addition to the main feature, all of that reporting also resulted in these two stories:
Tech Firms Take Bigger Steps into Health Care ... about how companies like Google and Uber, usually known as tech giants, are getting into the health care game...and
Health Care To Undergo 'Silver Tsunami' ... about how aging demographics in the U.S. are putting a strain on the health care system, but also sustaining a trend toward patient-driven wellness and inspiring new innovation.
And there's one more story coming next week, about the privacy and cybersecurity concerns that come with some of the cool new digital health products.
I think this is officially my main beat now, which I have to say I'm pretty excited about!
Through this whole process, though, I lived all of the ups and downs of the writer life that may be familiar to you if you're also a journalist, or any kind of writer:
Have great idea. Start researching. Feel validated in great idea. Get go-ahead from editor. Start reporting and interviewing. Get increasingly excited. Marvel at all the great things you're learning. Read a bunch of other people's writing on the subject and get a little nervous. Get ready to write. Take one look at your pages and pages of notes and become catatonic. Eventually recover enough to write a little bit at a time, slowly and painfully. Suddenly have the need to clean everything and go everywhere and talk to everyone - anything but writing! Finally lock yourself in your apartment and turn off all electronics and finish a draft, emerging bleary-eyed and hangry. Have small heart attack after sending draft to editor. Get edits back from editor. Question all of your life choices. Wonder if you should apologize to editor for deigning to think you could do this. Consider going into PR. Get freaked out enough by the idea of going into PR to actually do the rewrite. Wonder until the very last fact-checking question if the story should be pulled because you might have just made all of this up in some wild hallucination. Get the word that it's done and feel relief wash over you. Sleep for three days. Have a new idea that's so exciting it makes you forget what you're about to get yourself into again...
In all seriousness, it was a great experience, not least because of my wonderful editor. But I can't give him all the credit. I experienced some pretty low lows during this experience, but ultimately it reminded me why I chose this as my craft, and validated my belief that I actually have a talent for it.
If you get a chance to read the stories, please let me know what you think! And look out for more in the near future :)