I spent a lot of time during my week away explaining myself. While I edit scientists, some of my cousins are actual real scientists, and others of them majored in physics in college but now do mysterious things with computers that little copyeditor/English majors don’t understand.
And so I feint. I’m the youngest in my family, both among my siblings and among my cousins, so even though I’m thirty-mumble (and getting more mumbly by the day), I suspect that they are all surprised that I’m a grown up human. I talk about how I understand the structure of scientific articles without knowing a goddamned thing about biology.
I describe my favorite words (cryosphere, toroidal, anti-human serum). My cousin helps me choose my favorite amino acid (that would be cystine; and now he can call me Cys). I talk the talk, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I talk about specialization.
I tell my uncle that while you can’t teach people to write, exactly, you can certainly teach them to be better writers. You can show them how to control the panic in their undergraduate heads and help them make it through. I explain how I help them break the writing process down into steps and talk them through. I give them tools and tricks, and tell them that the only way out is through.
I talk fast and make jokes. I keep up. And in my family, sometimes that is all that matters.