A Day in the Life of Bryn Nelson


Bryn Nelson Courtesy of Bryn Nelson

What I’m working on:

My background is in microbiology, so most of my stories involve the life sciences or biomedicine (though I also enjoy writing environmental and travel pieces). I recently finished a large project for Mosaic on using cord blood transplants to cure leukemia in adults. Among my other gigs, I write a monthly news feature for the journal Cancer Cytopathology. I just finished a three-part series for that publication on the inconsistent and patchwork approach to researching, regulating, and investigating herbal supplements in the U.S. For another feature in The Hospitalist, I’m writing about how hospitals are contributing to the opioid crisis. I’m also gearing up for a reporting trip to Cuba, where I hope to write some environmental and travel pieces for a change of pace.

Sunrise mountain
The inspiring view of Mount Rainier to the south never gets old. Bryn Nelson

Where I work:

I’m so lucky to have my own home office with a lovely view of Seattle’s Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains. I often find myself just staring out the window and soaking in the view. On Fridays, though, I work from a local coworking space called Office Nomads, which gives me some much-needed face time with other adults.

Piper the boxador, always ready for a walk. Bryn Nelson

Daily routine:

I wake up around 8:00 a.m., play pound-and-snooze for 30 minutes and then reluctantly get out of bed and walk the dog (making sure to end at the local coffee shop where she gets a treat and I get my triple latte). If I’m not on deadline, I catch up on the morning news (normally via my iPhone or laptop), sort through my emails, and try to respond to critical messages or phone calls.

After that, every day is a little different: I may read research papers, set up or conduct interviews with sources, work on a pitch, type up some notes, or start or edit a draft. Along the way, I generally take a few social media breaks (more on that later).

Most productive part of my day:

I hate mornings. Being on the West Coast means that they’re a necessary evil. I’m far more productive in the evening and at night, however, when I can write without distractions.

Nelson office
The cleanest that Nelson’s office has ever been (and ever will be), he says. Bryn Nelson

Most essential ritual or habit:

Whenever I have to edit my drafts and chop away on deadline, I always print out the draft. I don’t know why, but there’s something about marking up the text with a pen and having everything laid out in front of me that makes me far more productive than if I do it on the computer. I’ve tried both ways and the manual editing kicks butt every time.

Mobile device:

I adore my iPhone 6—perhaps a bit too much.


My 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop is a bit worn around the edges these days. An entire row of keys has become nonresponsive and the “A” is completely worn away, so I now use an external Bluetooth keyboard and mouse pad.

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

I use Skype as my office phone and rely on Ecamm’s Call Recorder app for capturing phone interviews. I also use Dropbox quite often for collaborations. On my iPhone, iScanner has been a lifesaver when I’ve needed to scan documents, Expensify has been helpful for business travel, and I love Voice Record Pro (Dayana Networks).

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Although rather late to the party, I’m kind of obsessed with Instagram at the moment. I’m an amateur photographer and I love weird art, nature photography, and pets. With Instagram, I can get lost so quickly—Ooh, northern lights! Ah, puppies! Wow, bizarre modern art! Although it has its own quirks, I love the international feel and the near-lack of mean trolls. I also recently discovered the Moment telephoto lens for the iPhone—that’s given me added incentive to walk through the neighborhood and pay attention to my surroundings.

My reading habits:

For news, my go-to sources are The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Economist, The New Yorker, and anything else that pops up on Twitter, Facebook, or email and seems interesting or necessary. I also love being inspired by the features of other science writers. As for books, I recently read Mary Roach’s Gulp and Stiff (I love her details, curiosity, and sense of humor), though I haven’t been able to get to as many books as I’d like and have a long and growing to-read list.

Sleep schedule:

Because I tend to work late a few nights a week, my sleep schedule skews late: Most nights, I go to bed around 12:00 or 12:30 a.m. I get up around 8:00 or 8:30—provided that I don’t have an early morning interview or conference call. If I’m cranking away on a draft, though, bedtime might be more like 1:30 a.m.

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