Transitioning from physician to medical writer (or pharmacist to medical writer) is exciting. No doubt you have already started this journey with things like networking, reading ‘how-to’ blogs or signing up for some medical writing courses to help develop your skills.
Skills development is a foundation stone to becoming a physician medical writer. You can’t write without skills – and you do need to add on writing skills to your base of scientific, health or medical knowledge. But skills alone may not always be enough to completely transition from health professional to medical writer.
Transitioning to a new writing career also takes courage, persistence and a willingness to see the world in a very different way. Medical writing for doctors is a personal development process I call coaching your inner writer. It’s this type of personal work that can really add power (and magic) to your professional development. And it’s a whole different story to developing your skills.
Becoming a physician writer – thinking beyond medical skills
As a physician medical writer, you’ll need to consider the differences between writing and science. Writing is, at heart, expansive and creative. Simply placing words one after the other can result in complex mental pictures to help us make sense of the world in a holistic way.
On the other hand, science is deductive and reductionist and approaches truth by breaking the world into smaller and smaller bits that we can measure and describe. These are two very legitimate but different mindsets for seeing the world. And, they don’t always sit easily with each other.
So, if you come from a science or health background you will be used to operating within a hierarchy. You may be used to looking to externally imposed rules and procedures to tell you if you are doing things the right way.
From this mindset, adding on medical writing skills (whether that is learning how to structure an article, to conduct interviews or write to SEO requirements) becomes another way of layering on rules. This may keep you working in a framework of needing permission and looking over your shoulder to see if you are doing things right.
On the other hand, in writing, there is often no single right way to do things – breaking rules can be more “right” than following them. So in becoming a writer you need to learn to dance with flexibility between different worlds. That may mean letting go of your existing paradigm and holding your baseline training more lightly. It may mean being willing to break rules and listening to your own inner authority to work out the right way forward for you.
Transitioning to a career in writing
Learning how to dance between the physician and medical writer world, and navigate the tension between science and writing, is not linear. It can be circular and random and you can’t always plan it.
This type of learning often evolves through the process of doing even before you feel ready. It’s borne of the courage to just put words on the page, even before you know where you are heading.
It’s about letting go of the rules and frameworks that you have relied on until now and being open to taking risks and making mistakes. It means taking action with fearless faith in yourself.
The process of becoming a physician medical writer is different for each of us.
There are no rules for growth and change. There is no set order or framework to guide development. It’s fluid and flexible and uncertain. You may be able to make this transition and manage the uncertainties naturally and easily. Or you may want or need support and guidance from a professional coach or mentor.
But, however you go about growth the core work is about harnessing your strengths and tapping into your inner wisdom so you can author the life and career you want.
This type of personal growth works best when it comes from deep inside you, when you decide to make the commitment to change and take responsibility for your own growth.
This starts with working out where you want to be and setting goals. It starts with putting words on the page as you begin to write your own story afresh.
This is the work of coaching your inner writer. It’s the space where personal meets professional. And it’s the space where you can make magic happen.
So, over to you my friends. What action will you take on your journey from physician to medical writer?