Are Your Writing Talents Gathering Dust?


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Pop Quiz-

What do Anton Chekhov, Michael Crichton, Atul Gawande, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all have in common?

If you guessed they are all writers, as well as physicians, you are right!

“Medicine is my lawful wife,” Chekhov once said, “and writing is my mistress.”

I think there are a lot of lonely mistresses out there.  I keep hearing from different people how much they love to write, but struggle to find time.  Lately I have heard:

“Writing used to be a creative outlet for me.  I wish I could get back to it.”

“I have a manuscript I was working on, but it’s gathering dust in the closet.

“I would love to do writing for a living, but that’s just a pipe dream. “

Maybe it’s not a pipe dream.  And maybe it’s time for that manuscript to come out of the closet.

A good first step could be looking into some resources for aspiring writers.  Here are a few suggestions:

American Medical Writers Association This organization has been in existence since 1940 and has chapters all across the country.  A sample of the offerings includes:

  • Courses in medical writing leading to certification
  • An annual conference
  • Self-study workshops
  • Networking opportunities
  • Job postings
  • Quarterly journal

The annual dues are $155 for regular membership and $55 for students.  Pursuing some of the certificate programs can be helpful in building credibility as a medical writer.  Certificate programs are available in these areas: Essential Skills, Business, Composition and Publication, Concepts in Science and Medicine, and Regulatory and Research.

Dr. Joseph Kim, founder of, medical writer and blogger, states that many people have entered the field of medical communications without any experience or additional degrees.  A medical writer may be able to make $50 – $150 per hour.

For those who are interested in fiction writing, SEAK offers several writing programs for physicians during the year. The next workshop is April 2-3, 2011 on advanced fiction writing.

Starting a blog and writing on a topic of interest to you, or being a guest blogger on an established site, is one relatively easy way to get started.  KevinMd is a blog that covers a wide variety of medical subjects and welcomes guest posts.

If you are feeling like you need a creative outlet, maybe it is time to pick up that pen and see where your words take you.   Your writing could become a cathartic outlet, a way to share your knowledge, a potential income stream, or a chance to meet others who share a similar passion.

Who knows, in a few years your name could be added to the pop quiz!

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  1. Bart Cobert MD on January 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    It’s actually a tough area now. Writing and medical writing and book publishing are undergoing radical change as Kindles and Nooks take over. Our son in medical school doesn’t buy books for his rotations. Each kid in the class chips in and they buy about 30 copies of the needed books and circulate them to each kid as he or she rotates through each service. No one is allowed to write in the books and they must be passed on at the end of the rotation. So not a lot of sales for the publisher and author. Out daughter is an ER resident and almost all of her material is read on her iPhone or Mac/PC. In the industry there are medical writing jobs but they tend to go to college grads with English majors and some bio or science courses. MD medical writers are rare as they are too expensive. I’ve written 4 (soon 5) medical textbooks on drug safety (Pharmacovigilance) and one with my wife on childhood obesity (she’s a child psychiatrist) and I estimate I’ve made perhaps $4000 dollars over 10 years (25 cents an hour perhaps). So check out your options carefully before you do this. Oh, and make sure you know how to write cogently. There is some skill involved 😉

  2. Heather Fork on February 11, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Thank you very much for sharing your perspective on medical writing. What I gather from conversations with a variety of physician medical writers is that there continues to be good opportunities for those who are willing to put in the effort and have the passion. There are medical writers making a healthy income, both as a writer within a company, as well as in the freelance realm. Successful writers will have a combination of excellent writing skills, the ability to meet deadlines, and a willingness to network. For anyone interested in this area, I would encourage you to investigate further.

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