A few weeks ago I found myself surrounded by majestic palms, white sand, fruity drinks, and a bunch of doctors bursting with great book ideas. The location, the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida, was the perfect setting for this most remarkable conference by SEAK, “How to Make Money as a Physician Writer.”
SEAK co-founder, Jim Mangraviti, opened with these words:
“Good things come to those who write.” Wow. I just loved that phrase. It was an invitation with a promise. It inspired hope and commitment. It became our mantra.
With over 30 published books and a host of courses for physicians he developed with SEAK co-founder, Steve Babitsky, Mangraviti knows a few things about the possibilities from writing.
Even though the focus of this course was on how to publish a book, the huge takeaway, the PEARL that was so large it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase (I had it shipped), was contained in those inspiring first words:
“Good things come to those who write.”
So before I lose anyone who’s saying, “But I’m not a writer,” or “I don’t want to write a book,” or “I had the flu when they taught grammar,” hang on. You don’t have to be a Hemingway or an Atul Gawande. You don’t even have to want to write a book for good things to come to you. I’m going to push this even further – you don’t even have to like to write! Ooh la la! (More on this amazing truth later.)
Through writing, you can create a whole new platform for yourself. You can open doors, attract entrepreneurial opportunities, and even carve a new career path.
As a segue into these opportunities, Mangraviti made a compelling point – the word authority contains the word author.
If you want to establish credibility in a new area, an accessible route is to start writing. Whatever it is you want to be viewed as an expert in, whether that’s a specific disease state, a wellness approach to healthcare, the opioid crisis, physician burnout, a better EMR, or a new twist on weight loss, if you start publishing articles or a blog on your topic, you will start to establish a name for yourself. It’s one reason why people write books – not necessarily to make money – but to be seen as an authority. This status can lead to speaking engagements, interviews, consulting gigs, and maybe even a new book contract or job offer.
And when I said, you don’t even have to like to write, I speak from personal experience. This just happens to be my 100th blog. I write these blogs because I want to provide something valuable for you, my readers. However, it’s always the last thing I want to do! Writing a blog is like birthing a bowling ball. It’s hard for me. But the effort is all worth it when a blog is helpful to one of you.
In this SEAK course, medical writer and former sports medicine physician, Dr. Mandy Armitage, discussed how physicians can get into medical writing, both as freelancers and as staff writers. Although the compensation tends to be lower than in other non-clinical sectors, she said there are opportunities for physicians and the work can be rewarding.
Most of the course was taught by Sorche Fairbanks, a literary agent who receives over 10,000 queries a year from hopeful writers. She took the time to go around the room and listen to everyone’s book ideas, offering constructive feedback from her years of experience. She taught us how to write a compelling query letter, as well as how to put together a book proposal. One interesting bit of advice Fairbanks shared was that publishers want to see a completed manuscript for novels and memoirs, whereas for non-fiction, they often prefer the first few chapters and table of contents, so they can shape the book if needed.
Again, you don’t have to want to write a book.
Another way to think about writing, especially if you don’t just love to write for writing’s sake, is that it can be a vehicle to create something new.
One of my clients, anesthesiologist Dr. Lynette Charity, had a dream of becoming a professional speaker and stand-up comic. For the past few years, she has written and refined countless speeches. The writing is more preparation for being in front of audiences. This year, after tireless persistence and a lot of writing, her speaking career has taken off. And yes, she is getting paid!
In addition to writing a book, blogging, or speech writing, there are many other ways writing can be a vehicle for bringing good things your way. You can write articles and publish online and in print. You can create an online course or an app, write patient education materials, develop scripts for videos, or update medical content on the web for physicians. Several of my clients have side gigs updating online medical content in their specialty. Some are writing novels and non-fiction books. Others are developing medical curricula, courses, and apps.
A popular way for physicians to get published is by writing for the KevinMD blog. Dr. Valerie Jones, an OB/Gyn who attended this course last year, published the first article she ever wrote on KevinMD after the course. It went viral and was shared over 35,000 times. She is now blogging from her site, obdoctormom.com and working on a book. Click here to read the post.
Well, that’s all for now. The blog is done (Yay!). I’m going bowling.
May good things come to all of you!
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