Writing an 800 word article about an area of neuroscience research that was interesting, true and understandable was quite a challenge.
The first article I wrote for the WeekEnd FT was probably the hardest of all. I wanted to explain the paradox that although the brain is an astonishingly complex and intricate computing machine, simple chemicals can change the way it operates in really specific ways.
The article took me weeks to write. The more I worked on it the less it seemed to say. Still, although it would not have made a good textbook chapter, it turned out quite nicely as a newspaper column. Indeed they liked it so much that they invited me to write a piece every fortnight.
I learned how to write much more quickly so that I could produce my 800 words in less than half a day. I also learned how to write topical pieces – my article about balance, and why it is disturbed by drinking alcohol, was produced for the Christmas edition. Some of the research I covered was done by friends and colleagues, like my piece about the Neuroinformatics Institute in Zurich. And of course I could never resist the opportunity to crusade, as in this article debunking the fad for smart foods.