Michael Crichton is a best-selling author, but before that, he was a doctor. So were Khaled Hosseini, Tess Gerritsen, and Arthur Conan Doyle, to name a few. Medicine and writing appear to be vastly different fields, but with so many doctors carving out careers as authors, the two occupations must have something in common.
Here’s one theory: both professions involve examining facts and figuring out a narrative. “When I was a medical student, we were taught to ask open-ended questions,” author Jamie Weisman commented on Lit Hub. “Those open-ended questions are the same ones that start out an essay.”
Physician-writer Terrence Holt has a particularly eloquent take. “We drop into the middle of patients’ stories and try to change the plot for the better,” he told NPR about medicine. “[The patient starts] telling a story, and you try to figure what it means.”
The link between writing and medicine is our not-so-subtle segue to this month’s Writer Spotlight. Meet health writer extraordinaire, Leigh, who works on our platform as Hope Burris. I’m fairly certain if Leigh had pursued her initial plans to go to med school, she’d be listed in the doctor-author category too. Let’s pop into her story and find out more.
Leigh currently calls New Mexico home, but is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania, near Scranton. Yes, that Scranton. “The town from The Office,” Leigh laughs. “[It’s] the only reason anyone knows where it is!”
She’s been writing for 16 years, but once had a different career in mind. “I originally planned to become a doctor, so I worked in the critical care department of a research hospital when I was a freshman in college,” Leigh explains. “Spent a lot of time copying medical journals in the library.” Though she changed her major to business, her passion for health care remained.
“I never lost my love for medicine, so I have incorporated a lot of health and medical writing into my freelance career,” she says. Her credentials are solid: she was managing editor of Northeast Nursing News, where she wrote profiles of local nursing professionals and features on advances in medical technology. She also had a stint as managing editor of the science and medicine channels at Bright Hub.
She credits another writer for referring her to Crowd Content. “We’ve never met, but I’ve known her for almost 10 years through a FB writing group,” she says.
If you ever spend time in our writer’s forum, you know we have quite a few fiction writers in our midst, but Leigh leans firmly the other way. “I love to write nonfiction and educational content that more creative writers might consider boring,” she explains. “I can be a little more casual for product descriptions or blog posts when needed, but I really enjoy writing content for professional services firms — law firms, medical offices, dental practices — and educational websites.”
Since coming to our platform, Leigh’s immersed herself in various health projects. Her favorites include Testing.com and Help.org. “I also love the Caring.com projects,” she adds. “Medical and health writing is my absolute favorite.”
When she’s not writing, she enjoys the performing arts. “I love to go to live performances — stand-up comedy, Broadway-style shows, the local symphony,” she reveals. “2020 was not my year!”
Knowing Leigh’s love of the arts, it’s no surprise to learn where she likes to go to dine out. It sounds like a theatrical performance in itself.
“Vernon’s Speakeasy [is] a local restaurant that is set up like a speakeasy from the Prohibition era. When you make a reservation, they give you a password to use when you arrive. The restaurant is hidden away,” she enthuses. “You’d never know it was there if you weren’t looking for it, so you have to walk up to the door, knock, and give the password before you can get in. Very dark inside, live piano player, etc. Just a cool place overall.”
Leigh also dabbles a little in music. “I played the clarinet in high school and recently decided to pick it back up again. I’m not as good as I used to be, but I am working on it,” she says.
I’m tempted to ask Leigh for a concert because we miss live performances too, but we’ve got lots more ground to cover. Let’s pick up the pace!
What’s your favorite TV show or movie? “The Sopranos, The Office, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, United States of Tara, and any type of business show, such as Shark Tank, Billion Dollar Buyer, The Profit.”
Who is your favorite author? What’s your favorite book? “I love all kinds of mysteries and thrillers. Favorite authors in these genres: Steve Cavanagh, Linwood Barclay, Kevin O’Brien, J.T. Ellison, Lisa Regan, Angela Marsons. I also like to read nonfiction books that go behind the scenes of TV shows/networks. I’m looking forward to Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office and Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos, coming out this fall.”
Have you been published by any notable sites or organizations? “My first print piece was published in Abilities magazine. I once had the #1 ranking slot on Google for a competitive mortgage keyword.”
Where do you write? “I have a home office with a desktop computer. When I can’t sit in the office chair anymore, I write from my laptop elsewhere in the house.”
What do you find most challenging about writing content? “Coming up with different ways to word content on similar topics.”
If you could change one thing about our platform, what would it be? “Sometimes you claim an order Friday night or Saturday morning…but then you come across a problem. So you don’t know if you should just write it the best you can…or try to wait for a response from the PM. If we had a pause button, we could pause the timer until we got clarification…or alert someone at CC that more info is needed to complete the assignment. Many PMs do respond to things on weekends, but I don’t expect them to be glued to their computers…they should be free to relax!”
What do you think sets Crowd Content apart from other content platforms? “The pay, the professionalism of the editors and project managers, and the ability to get help when needed.”
Do you have any advice for new writers? “When you get on the platform, think long-term. It can be tempting to rush through your first few orders because you want to make money and you’re eager to take on more work. But if you rush, you risk making mistakes. It’s better to go slow and steady and focus on quality so that you get good ratings and can move up over time.”
Sounds like a true prescription for success from one of our most experienced writers! Thank you, Leigh, for sharing your story. We’ll let you get back to the writing queues and take a rain check on that clarinet performance.
There are so many more of you who make Crowd Content such a great place to be. Who will we learn about next? Maybe it’ll be you!