I tried for about 10 minutes - do you know how hard it is to describe organic synthesis when you can't say "chemistry," "stir," or "product?" Here's what I came up with, at long last:
"In my job we make things from other things. When you want to get a new thing, you think a lot, get some books, and look things up. If your thing comes from rocks or trees, great! Order it. If not, try lots of bad runs, and something will eventually work out. When you get that one good run, try to make it even better. Now you can do what I do!"Far cry from something you'd find in Scientific American, but a fun challenge nonetheless!
Readers, go have some fun, and report back: does your explanation work better?
Update (1/18/13) - The internet is an amazing place. Theo and Tom have already created the "Up-Goer Six" text editor, which evaluates your grammatical choices to tell you how far your writing deviates from "ten hundred words." Pretty colors, too!