Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Professor Howard Markel, who is the head of the History of Medicine department here at the University of Michigan and a somewhat high profile author. Needless to say I was mildly starstruck and probably talked too much. I had contacted him because all of his work is something I aspire to do someday, I want to do some sort of independent study or work with one of his projects, and also to get his advice about starting the school of public health blog/student organization in the fall.
In response to my requests, he’s going to try and see if I can help with the web encyclopedia about the American Flu Epidemic of 1918 that he started. He gave me sound advice about starting the blog/club (don’t publish everything, obviously, and get some money), sound advice about writing and a copy of one of his books.
His advice about writing was “I hate saying this, because I know I hated hearing it when I was younger, but read and write a lot. Writers write. Read other authors, see what works what doesn’t. Find your voice and write for an audience. It’s fun writing for yourself, but writers write for other people. I’ve written for an audience of 3, and I’ve written for an audience of 3 million- and writing for 3 million is a lot more fun”
I have to agree that writing for an audience is more fun. Will I ever write for 3 million people? Who knows. I mean I write for (technically) 930 or so of you (if any of you actually read my original posts, thank you hello, you’re beautiful) and I enjoy it thoroughly.
But he’s right. Writers write. And I have put off a lot of my personal writing because A. I’ve been busy but also B. because I have worried too much about the exactly right timing and perfection so much that I haven’t been getting any of my thoughts down when they occur to me or finished projects and gotten them out there despite them not being “just right”
If I’m going to be a writer I gotta just kick things out that are as good as I can make them. I can only get better through practice.