Some Lessons Learned from a Science Fair Experiment

My husband and I spent the early part of this week helping our seven-year-old with his science fair project. I know that often times we talk about the sciences and the humanities as if they are inimicable to one another–but aside from different routes to knowledge, I think there’s actually a lot of overlap.

Here are a few things I learned from helping my son–things that are just as applicable to writing as to science.

1. It helps to have some idea where you want to go (a hypothesis).

2. If your idea (hypothesis) doesn’t work out, try something else.

3. Good experimentation takes time–procrastination isn’t always an effective strategy!

4. Have confidence in yourself. This is something I could learn from my son–even though his project wasn’t particularly original, he remained enthusiastic about the possibility of “winning.” As a writer, I’m often too quick to sell myself–and my writing–short. I may not be great yet, but the possibility is always there.

5. Get good support. (It goes without saying that most seven-year-olds can’t do a science fair project by themselves. Most writers can’t write a novel without support either).

6. Choose something that genuinely interests you–science fair projects (and novels. And dissertations) take a fair amount of time. If you’re not really interested, you’ll hate yourself and your project before you finish.

7. Don’t be afraid of making big leaps (or of looking foolish when the leap doesn’t work). When I asked my son why he wanted to study things that conduct electricity, he explained that he wanted to know how to be safe in a lightning storm–a leap that I would probably not have made. I thought it sounded a little silly, but I put on his poster anyway, because it was his idea. And you know what? It apparently paid off: this afternoon, I get to see him receive his first-place trophy for his age group.

Any other science fair parents/participants out there? What have you learned about writing from your own experiments?