Blog 1: From pipette to pen

Sarah Fraser used to work in medical research, but now works full time as a medical writer.  This week she is blogging for Franklin Women about how she got into the medical writing profession and what, exactly, medical writing is anyway. So, over to Sarah....

Once upon a time, in a laboratory far, far away, there was a research assistant called Sarah. As she worked away, culturing cells, grinding up tumours and running endless Western blots, she would often gaze out the window, to the streets below, and dream of becoming a medical writer.

Ok, that’s not exactly true. In fact, it’s not even remotely true. When I decided that a career in tumour immunology wasn’t for me, I had no idea that there was such a thing as medical writing. I was just fed up with doing experiments that didn’t work, and was possibly experiencing a quarter-life crisis. So naturally, I quit my job and headed to Europe for 3 months. The plan was to come back and find a job that was fulfilling, interesting, and where every experiment worked the first time. But I started a blog while I was travelling, and one day, sitting in an internet cafe in Turkey, writing up my latest ‘adventure’ and laughing at my own jokes (bad habit), I thought, ‘You know, this writing business is pretty fun.’ And then I thought, ‘I wonder if I could do it for a living.’

The rest is surprisingly straightforward, and I have to put in a disclaimer here that this is how I got into the business of writing, but there are probably a million different ways you could do it.

Anyway, I decided I wanted to be a writer, so when I got home, I enrolled in a 2-year professional writing diploma and learned how to become a writer. I studied journalism, novel writing, corporate writing, writing for children, Australian literature, myths and symbols, editing and probably more I can’t remember. But I still hadn’t heard of the term ‘medical writer’. I wanted to write books, or maybe be a science journalist (yes, books and journalism – both booming industries).

sciencewritingimageThen I finished my diploma and after a few months of fruitless searching for editing work (I’d realised by then that no one was going to pay me to write my first novel) I saw a job ad for a medical writer. It seemed perfect. They wanted someone who could read scientific literature and then write about it in a comprehensible way. I applied for the job and haven’t looked back. It’s a nice combination of my background in research and my hard-learnt skills in dissecting information and presenting it clearly and accurately (a.k.a. writing good).

I find it interesting that I never heard of the profession throughout the whole of my writing course. It is a fairly niche field, but for people with the right background it’s definitely a viable career. So I thought perhaps in the next couple of posts I would cover what medical writing involves and how anyone reading this might get into the field. Stay tuned...

Share Button