Are you writing a book about health, well-being or related topics? Have you wondered whether Harvard Medical School’s CME healthcare leadership and publishing course is right for you? Or have you attended and wondered if it would be worthwhile to return a second time?
I met Karen Mechanic, MD, two years ago at the course and have served as a sounding board for her from time to time. I’ve been impressed with how the course helped her go from being shy about writing and addressing large groups of people to being comfortable and eloquent. In this interview, Karen shares her writing and leadership journey of the past two years.
Lisa: How did you hear about Harvard Medical School’s healthcare leadership and publishing course?
Karen: Searching the internet for a conference to focus on specific professional skills, including communication, writing and healthcare leadership.
Lisa: What was your primary reason for attending the course the first time?
Karen: I expected to sharpen communication skills such as writing clearer emails and giving more entertaining talks.
Lisa: What did you get out of the course?
Karen: A focus on reading critically and a new feeling of confidence that I have my own story to tell.
Lisa: When you left, what did you plan to do with the information?
Karen: I set an intention of daily journal writing and set a goal to submit one piece for publication.
Lisa: And so much more actually took place! Can you share what you achieved over the course of the following year?
Karen: I accomplished much more than I’d imagined possible. In writing more to myself, I read more, began to explore more ideas, listened more acutely to how language is used, began to notice nuances of writing like voice and tone.
Lisa: So learning about writing, voice, tone and language at the course helped you pay more attention to that in your rea
ding, speaking and writing. That’s wonderful. You mentioned to me that you were a bit shy about writing and speaking at first. What happened after attending the writing course that first time?
Karen: I began to share ideas with writing professionals. I sought out opportunities to present my ideas to a wide variety of audiences, and noted reactions of others, which stimulated new ideas and new goals. I also sought feedback on my ideas.
Lisa: Such as?
Karen: Did I need comments from a small intimate group of people who weren’t familiar with me or did I need to introduce ideas to a large audience to see if they were interested, engaged, or fell asleep? I noted questions or comments they voiced in the group versus the ones they privately asked me after my presentation.
Lisa: Sounds like the course gave you the confidence and tools to fully explore your ideas and expand them.
Karen: Yes. The steps I learned at the course flowed naturally as my goals shifted throughout the year.
Lisa: As you began to express your ideas in writing to a larger audience, can you share a bit about what happened and how your modest goals grew to bigger ones?
Karen: Once I became more confident expressing myself in writing for the public, I became a Huffington Post blogger. I also wrote a short piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Instead of declining opportunities like interviews, I accepted them because I appreciated the importance of platform.
Lisa: Yes, platform–or reaching an audience before your book ever comes out–is a big theme in the course. Why did you attend the course a second time?
Karen: Once I went into action with ideas and strategies I learned the first time around, I was more ready for some of the more advanced topics including social media and platform building.
Lisa: What were your goals the second time around? What did you want to get out of the course?
Karen: I was interested in advanced workshops with opportunities to interact with my peers. I wanted to pitch my book idea because I was seeking feedback from as many agents, coaches and editors as I could present myself to.
Lisa: What observations do you have about your process? Any surprises?
Karen: I feel more confident, in general. I’ve now had conversations about writing with several very successful authors and learned there is no mystery or special secret about writing. I was more impressed by their discipline and determination.
Lisa: Did you get what you came for in year two?
Karen: Like last year, I got even more than I anticipated. I’m grateful to Dr. Julie Silver for the comfortably safe environment of her course. I understand why people attend more than once.
Lisa: You mentioned the opportunity to pitch being a big draw the second time around. When and how did you fine tune your pitch?
Karen: I had lots of help from many people at the course both from lecture content and actual stop watch and editing sessions with the professionals in attendance. I also wrote out at least ten revisions on my own.
Lisa: What plans did you leave with last April?
Karen: Continue journaling, self editing, platform building. I also planned to submit short pieces for publication and line up more talks. Plus more blogging and some tweeting.
Lisa: And what took place since the second course?
Karen: Since the second course I have been writing more and speaking more as an expert in major media outlets (on television, radio, online and in print). With improving confidence and communication skills, I have been invited to speak and write more on a level that I didn’t anticipate. During this year I have interacted with many people who have given me invaluable assistance and guidance. In addition, my first book proposal is under serious consideration by a publisher.
Wow, congratulations and good luck! Let us know when your book comes out and we’ll add that to this interview!
Karen Mechanic is a psychiatrist who specializes in addictions and consultation liaison psychiatry. She also is interested in integrative care. She blogs on the Huffington Post and writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer. You can tweet her at @mechanickaren.
Readers, have a question about the course? Feel free to ask as a comment? Have an experience of the course you’d like to share? Please do.