Practical Authorship: So you want to write

Quill_penThis is a another part of the series about writing.

This one is from @Ian_Wac ogne, Editor of the wonderful green Education and Practice edition. It’s part of a resource which will grow, over the weeks and months for people to access if they’re thinking about writing.

This post – as others may be – is particularly aimed at people who might like to write for Education and Practice, but I hope that there will be helpful information for other parts of the ADC suite, for the rest of BMJ publishing, and beyond.  Of course, if you’re looking for tips on creative writing – if you’re one of these people who has always had a book in you – then this isn’t the place; the best advice I’ve heard about that is to read, read, read.

In this first post, I want to ask:  Why do you want to write?

There are lots of good reasons to write.  There are some less good ones too. I’ll list a few, with some thoughts about each.

Because you want to.

This is perhaps the best, but it isn’t always necessary.  Some reluctant writers turn a beautiful phrase, and some of the strongest articles I’ve published have had long and difficult gestations.

Because everyone else is.

That’s not particularly true in all fields of medicine now.  I’ve sat on a number of consultant appointments panels where none of the applicants has a single publication.  However, in some disciplines – and in particular approaches, for example academia, then, yes, everyone else is writing.

Because you need something to put on your CV (Resume).

Same as above.  It’s worth considering that, if you’re up against three other people with identical qualifications and experience as you, and you’re the one who has written something while they haven’t, then you’ll be a step ahead.

Because you need the practice.

We all need the practice.  Actually, I reckon that nearly all of my work is about communication, and the discipline of being able to write – and having practiced hard at that – has improved my communication skills.

Because you want to learn something.

There’s an old adage which goes “See one, do one, teach one”.  It’s overused, and is certainly a gross oversimplification (cardiac surgery anyone?).  However, the kernel of truth is that that you don’t really understand something until you’ve tried to explain it to someone else.  Often this will be to students, or to colleagues, other times it will be to patients or their families.  In writing you need to be both the voice and the ear – and the discipline of hearing (or writing) and realising that you haven’t understood or explained it clearly enough is very powerful.

Because you have something to say.

Do colleagues do something that frustrates you?  Is there an aspect of practice that you think is sloppy and should be improved?  Is there something that you know, that has improved your life and the way that you do medicine, that other people need to know?  Perhaps you need to write it.

More of that in the next post…

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