Frequently asked questions

How do I become a writer?

Write. That’s the short answer.

The longer answer is that you need to read a lot and write what you love to read. Write like your life depends on it. Find a community of writers whose work speaks to you.

No, but how do I get paid for writing?

What kind of writing? Apply to be a staff writer at a publication. Become a freelancer and get good at pitching. Pen a stellar novel, get an agent, sell it for a million bucks. Join an ad agency as a copywriter. Become a lawyer and bury your opponents in briefs. You have lots of options, but sometimes the sexiest-sounding jobs are the least fun in reality.

I’m developing a webinar series to help writers tackle this in depth. Please follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter to stay up-to-date.

How do I write for National Geographic?

Pitch them.

Read about how I started writing for National Geographic in The Open Notebook.

Is there an easy way to become a writer?


If it was easy, it wouldn’t feel so rewarding when we succeed.

When you go hiking, you don’t take the easiest route. You don’t choose the straight course on flat ground. You choose the challenging path with twists and turns, with boulders to climb—the path that ends with a breathtaking summit view.

How did you become a writer?

I read a lot for a long time. I did a lot of hoping. Then when hoping didn’t work, I quit my job to write full time. Having no money and being desperate to pay my bills was pretty good motivation to sell my work.

Why didn’t you respond to my email?

I’m very bad at emails. But really, it could be for a lot of reasons:

  • It’s possible that I missed what you sent me.
  • You asked an open-ended question that I can’t answer easily.
  • You asked to pick my brain, but I only have two brain cells left after 2020, and they’re busy telling each other that everything’s gonna be okay.
  • You forgot the secret password.
  • I’m busy, out in the field reporting, or sick of staring at screens.
  • I set my computer on fire and pushed it in a small rowboat onto the nearest lake while chanting incantations from the shore.
  • All of the above.

Why are you ignoring me on Twitter?

My settings block mentions from people who don’t follow me. This cuts down on stress for me, as it weeds out most trolls.

Can you write about my product/service/blog/self?

Probably not. The main topics I write about are science and nature. If you’re doing something truly adventurous and astonishing, get in touch

Where can I buy your books?

They aren’t out yet, but the first one will be in a couple of years. Please  follow me on Twitter or  subscribe to my newsletter to stay up-to-date.

I’m angry about something you wrote.

Cute! First off, that’s not a question. Second, go here.

You wrote a story but left me out. How do I get into the story?

If it’s already published, try time travel. Short of that, there’s nothing you can do. Cool? Cool. Go off and enjoy your life.

Can you speak at my event?

Perhaps, depending on the event and how much you pay me. Get in touch.  

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