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Should You Invest Money In Your Writing Career?

Two things happened simultaneously today that made me think about whether doctors should invest not only time but also money into their writing careers.

The first thing was that a doctor who is a pretty good writer sent me an email and said that she didn't want to pay a freelance editor to work with her on her book proposal. This doctor wrote that she was willing to spend time on becoming a better writer, but she didn't think she should have to spend any money. 

The second thing that happened was the publicist for the Harvard CME Publishing course that I direct sent me an email asking for a few bullets about why a doctor should consider coming to the course. In both instances, working with a freelance editor and/or coming to a publishing course, means that you are spending not only valuable time but real dollars. Why do that? Isn't just spending the time to write enough? 

Sometimes it is enough to just spend the time. Some doctors are able to publish their novel, non-fiction book, magazine article, etc. without ever going to a course, attending a writing workshop, hiring a freelance editor, and so on. Anyone who successfully publishes must spend a significant amount of time on the writing, but not everyone has to financially invest in a "publishing education."

But many doctors have truly brilliant ideas that are not quite executed well enough to show the world just how terrific their book is. When this happens, and the rejections pile up (or the work isn't even submitted for fear of rejection), writing becomes a really frustrating process. Busy physicians often give up and don't publish what would almost certainly be wonderful books, articles and other materials. 

So, since I need to send the publicist a few bullets, let me jot down some thoughts here and see what you think. I'd say that a few of the top reasons why doctors might want to consider coming to the Harvard publishing course include:

1. You can meet editors, literary agents, publicists and other authors who can offer invaluable advice and connections that are impossible to come by without face-to-face contact. On-line communication is terrific, but nothing beats meeting someone, shaking his/her hand, and genuinely making a connection. Just ask Greg Bledsoe, MD, who founded this website with a colleague. I met Greg at a conference and decided to fit this blog into my busy schedule, because I had met him and really liked him. We connected. He's a real person who's smile I've seen and hand I've shaken.     

2. Creativity breeds creativity. Looking for your muse? You'll often find it when you bounce ideas off of other creative individuals. Sure, your wife, boyfriend, best friend and barber might all listen and offer encouragement, but getting input from outside sources and "vetting" your ideas can make them much stronger and better defined. Plus, it's really fun to hang out with doctors who like to write and talk about creative ideas. 

3. Publishing a book is a dream that many doctors have. But, there are some really phenomenal opportunities that involve publishing intellectual property in non-book form that we'll be discussing this year at the course. I'm working on that lecture now. I've gotten lots of great ideas from past course attendees who have done some amazing things that go beyond book publishing. I'll share lots of info about what they did and how they did it.

4. Finally, there's nothing that beats hearing from the pros what's really going on in publishing. It's a dynamic and fascinating world. The faculty tell it like it is.  They are encouraging and can save you a lot of aggravation and time. They can help pave the way for you to get where you want to go more quickly and effectively. 

I could certainly add more bullets, but what I'll end with is that I've taken my own advice. I've hired editors to work with me. I've gone to writing courses and workshops. Sure, I could have done it all alone, but I'm not sure I would have been able to do with my writing what I wanted to do.  My theme when I write is very focused on healing. If you want to see some of my publishing on healing, check out my website at I didn't learn to become an award-winning writer in medical school. I earned my "writing degree" by working with pros who have taught me a lot. I am continually learning from publishing experts—I won't ever be "done." 

Whatever you want to do with your writing, consider whether a small financial investment will help you to be more successful more quickly. It just might...

Reader Comments (3)

Great article that really hit home. It's very easy to say "I don't have enough time to......" Thanks for the reminder. J

Thanks for the perspective, Julie (and the kind words). I would like to second what you've said. I've met numerous individuals online, but there's nothing like a face-to-face connection.

For any aspiring authors out there, I would strongly recommend Julie's Harvard Writers course. Julie's talks on writing and publishing at our 2009 Medical Fusion event were some of the most popular and highly rated talks we've ever had. If you want to grow your writing skills and truly learn the publishing industry, I don't know of any better way to do it than the courses Julie directs.

For most of us, and, I am including myself in this reference to "most of us", writing that goes beyond brief communication is daunting. My first four paragraph memo in my business school communications class was humbling. Seven drafts later with feedback on each draft, I had a respectable memo.
Julie's recommendations on how to approach professional writing and the rationale for making an investment in coursework and/or a professional writer partner in the endeavor, are vital, My last several journal articles- on mobile health, facebook for physicians, and the medical home- have been in concert with a professional writer, The end result is better than either of us would have done independently.

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