Doctors who write

Some of the best books I’ve read have been written by doctors (see here). However, medics can be pigeonholed into the scientific world and not particularly known for creativity or art.

There’s many a physician who wrote a lot as a child, and with a love of literature they bravely marched into the medical field…

And then, in medicine, our creativity can often be silenced. Mainly due to the sheer mental demand of medical training. For some, they may even feel less of a doctor if they don’t dedicate their time to purely clinical pursuits.

Yet ignoring the urge to express ourselves artistically cannot stop this call to create.

That’s why I loved joining the writing workshop at the Australasian Doctors’ Health Conference 2022. It was as if an official body of medicine was saying, “it’s okay to be creative”. “It’s okay to write”. “You don’t need to be 100% medicine, that’s fine”. Let’s go through the key takeaways.

The need to create

Human beings have been creative beings for a really long time—long enough and consistently enough that it appears to be a totally natural impulse.

The earliest evidence of recognizable human art is forty thousand years old. The earliest evidence of human agriculture, by contrast, is only ten thousand years old. Which means that somewhere in our collective evolutionary story, we decided it was way more important to make attractive, superfluous items than it was to learn how to regularly feed ourselves.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Big Magic

I’m thankful for all the doctors who’ve shared their treasures with us. Dr Paul Kalanithi planned to be a neurosurgeon for 20 years, then spend the rest of his life dedicated to writing. This plan was rudely interrupted when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Suddenly, his timeline went from a 40 year plan to 22 months left to live.

Imagine if he didn’t share his work of art, When Breath Becomes Air?

I not only appreciate all the works shared but look forward to those still to come. Will you be the author of the next?

Lessons from the writing workshop for docs

The facilitators were:

  • Dr Peter Goldsworthy AM – award-winning writer and medical practitioner
  • Dr Hilton Koppe – author and retired country GP
  • Dr Samantha Pillay – first female urologist in South Australia and author of the Inspirational Careers for Kids
  • Clin Professor Leanne Rowe AM – author and GP
  • Julia Beaven – editor Wakefield press

It was great to hear from doctors in Australia who are writing and to speak with an editor. These facilitators are proof that it’s possible to write and be a doctor. The full room of physicians eager to learn more about becoming an author was further proof that we are all more than what we do. You could feel the excitement in the room to get started with creating.

Another great practical takeaway was about the publishing process. The facilitators were a mix of self-published and those represented by a publishing house.

Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

Publishing house or self-published

Publishing house

  • Can be tricky to get represented
  • They take a large percentage of profits
  • BUT they take care of the editing, typesetting, cover design, printing and distributing
  • + The editing process is hugely beneficial to refine a book


  • You pay for the upfront cost (can be $$)
  • You need to do it all
  • No rejection letter
  • Total control of project
  • No splitting the profit

What next?

The only other big tip was to get started. Give it a go and see what happens.

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