At some point during their careers, most health writers will need to tackle health topics that are, er, awkward.
Here’s how to start feeling comfortable writing about the uncomfortable.
Most experienced health writers don’t have a problem with writing about embarrassing diseases. Or the type of personal issue that’s only spoken about in the comfort of a private GP consultation.
But to those who are just starting out, and to those who may not specialise in medicine or healthcare, it can be quite daunting.
Writing about health topics like genital herpes or discharge (and choose images to go along with it) for the first time is confronting.
I’ve written uncomfortable health topics aplenty
I first became exposed to health topics in all their glory when I worked for the British Medical Journal in London.
I spent many hours editing a colourful variety of images for a health topic website.
The site covered hundreds and hundreds of topics: You name it, and I can just about guarantee that I edited an image for it.
However that was nothing compared to my first real foray into the squeamish topics arena.
I was required to create a series of ‘down there’-related articles and other bits and pieces that specifically focused on women’s health conditions like vaginitis, yeast imbalances, and symptoms like vaginal itching.
Because the content needed to offer quite a bit of insight into how the body works, many of the articles I wrote and edited discussed things like bacteria, fungus, mucus and yeast – in great detail.
Before I began this particular project, I could barely even say the words “vaginal health” out loud. But as time went on, the project earned the nickname “vaj” from its key stakeholders. And we all spoke about it as if it were as comfortable as an old shoe – becoming equally as fond of it.
How did I get so comfortable?
There are four key things I can pinpoint that helped me to relax into this topic.
#1 Background reading
The more I read about the topic, the more familiar it became. And therefore I felt more comfortable working with the subject matter and material.
Taking the time to understand the health topics. Don’t just rush through the pieces to get them done. Also, remember to focus on writing quality content that your readers will understand.
As with writing about anything unpleasant, it’s not productive to constantly imagine it happening to you. Or becoming paranoid that you “have it”. Or believing that it will one day happen to you.
Maintain a positive attitude towards the content. Don’t treat it as something negative, yucky, awkward or embarrassing to have to write about.
I’d love to hear from you. Is there anything you’re uncomfortable writing about? What are the most challenging health topics you’ve covered?