We are on a mission to get to know our talent better. This week we caught up with 6-star writer Aurora H., a science buff with expertise in health and wellness with a Master’s in cognitive neuroscience to back it up.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer, and how did you get your start?A: I started freelance writing eight years ago when I was in graduate school and in need of some extra cash. I’ve always loved scientific writing, so it seemed like a natural fit. I started by working for another online content studio and made the transition to Writer Access in 2012. I haven’t looked back since!
Q: You’ve got a strong academic background in the psychological sciences; what drew you to that field of study?
A: I started out by working in a fruit fly research lab in college, studying a genetic mutation that causes accelerated brain aging. I fell in love with research but wanted to do something with humans rather than fruit flies, so I transitioned to neuropsychology (the study of brain-behavior relationships). I’ve always been fascinated by the brain and how little we know about how it works, so I figured I’d take a stab at figuring it out.
Q: Are you currently working in that field as well as writing? If so, what do you do?
A: Writing is a side job for me; I am actually a full-time Ph.D. student in clinical neuropsychology. I’m nearing the end of my doctoral training and will graduate this year. My day-to-day work involves assessing the cognitive functioning of patients with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, brain injuries, and other conditions to help with diagnosis and treatment planning.
Q: Have you noticed industry-wide changes or shifts in content related to the medical/health field?
A: More than ever, clients look for content that is interactive and provides a fresh take on an old topic. In many cases, that means writing content that can accompany a video or graphic. It’s a great way to convey scientific information, but it requires a lot of time and energy to do well. There is such a proliferation of health content online — if you don’t hook readers within the first sentence, they will move on to something else.
Q: When working with a new client, what are the most important things you need to know before starting on a project?
A: Who is the audience for this project? Particularly when explaining a complicated technical topic or recent research findings, that’s the most important thing to know. Am I writing for a layperson who was drawn in by a clickable title or for dedicated professionals looking for some hard-hitting analysis of the latest research? That guides my research and writing process.
Q: What does your workspace look like?
A: I’ve been known to work anywhere from local coffee shops to my living room couch to hotels in foreign countries with terrible wi-fi connections. Anywhere my trusty laptop can join me.
Q: Are you ever faced with requests to write about something you don’t agree with or that is factually untrue? If so, how do you handle that?
A: This happens frequently in the science and health content sphere. Unfortunately, pseudoscience is often sexier and more clickable than established medical consensus. Each writer needs to establish his or her own boundaries about what feels ethical and comfortable. Personally, I refuse to write content that promotes practices that I think are unsafe or flat-out contrary to scientific consensus. For content in the “gray area,” I provide caveats and try to provide resources that allow readers to make their own informed opinions.
Q: It seems like you’ve also traveled quite a bit. Where are your favorite places to travel? Why?
A: I love exploring new cultures and archaeological sites, so Turkey, Jordan, and Peru have been highlight trips for me. When it comes to outdoor recreation, though, nothing beats the good old U.S. National Park system (Great Sand Dunes and North Cascades National Parks are favorites). Anywhere I can be off the grid for a while is the ultimate relaxation for me.
Q: Any go-to advice for beginning freelancers?
A: Be persistent! It can be slow-going at the beginning. Expanding the content areas you’re able to write for will help you build a reputation. From there, more specialized opportunities in your preferred niche will open up. Also, remember that you’re being paid to deliver strong content. Meet deadlines, be professional, and be flexible when revising content to meet the client’s standards.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
A: Though very different from one another, Margaret Atwood and Neal Stephenson are two favorites for their simply unparalleled world-building and storytelling abilities.
6-star writer Aurora H. joined WriterAccess in 2012 and has completed over 1,800 projects. She specializes in science writing, including health, medical, and fitness. She uses her background to tackle technical topics but also has a passion for travel that has taken her all over the world.
Aurora has a Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Chicago.