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Veterinarian Technician February 2007 (Vol 28, No 2) Focus: Dentistry

Practical Skills: "Write? Right!"

by Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

    Have you always wanted to see your name in print but didn't know how to get started? Do you have a good grasp of grammar? Are you willing to do the research? Becoming a published author can be a rewarding experience that opens doors to your future. Are you ready for the challenge?

    I Can't Write!

    If you're like a lot of people, when someone asks if you would like to make writing your next career move, you say "I can't write." Why is that? Who told you that you can't write? Was it your sixth-grade teacher, grading your book report on a book that you just skimmed through? Or your college roommate who wanted to "borrow" your term paper but decided it wasn't good enough to put her name on it? Or is that little voice inside your head saying, "What makes you the expert all of a sudden?" Whatever is holding you back — the fear of failure, or even the fear of success — read this article to yourself aloud, loud enough to drown out those voices, and consider the next big move in your career: writing.

    Who Writes?

    Veterinary professionals start writing for many reasons. Some stumble into writing by being asked to work on a project or assignment that leads to publication. Many are inspired by an interesting case they are involved in, a topic that seems particularly fascinating, or a skill they feel confident they have mastered. Personally, I always wanted to be a writer. But writing essays for school never seemed like enough fun, so the thought was pushed down by years of formal education. When I tried my hand at fiction, all I could create were pathetic teenage love stories that bored even me. Then I realized that the cliché "write what you know" is absolutely true. In fact, it can be an inspiration. For me, it was as if something suddenly clicked, and I realized that what I know best is veterinary medicine, and I wanted to write about it. The old love for the written word rekindled inside of me, and I began to attack blank pages with gusto again.

    When Should You Write?

    The best reason to write, and the only thing that makes someone a writer, is having something to say. So when someone says "I can't write," it often means, "I would like to try, but I don't know what to say." If this de­scribes you, go back to the basics and find your passion. Everyone reading this article knows something special. Regardless of whether you are a receptionist, kennel assistant, or technician, you know something no one else does. Maybe it's how to calm the most aggressive client. Maybe you know how to restrain the meanest cat or put in the trickiest catheter. Everyone on the veterinary health care team is exposed to challenging obstacles, from scheduling a team to communicating with a boss to helping a patient through an unusual illness. So tell someone else what you know, someone besides your coworkers and your spouse! Share your knowledge, gain a little fame along the way, and send your career down a new path.

    Why Write?

    Writing is satisfying for many reasons. You may not become famous overnight, but people will begin to recognize you, and that feels good. Even better, your boss may notice some new potential! Some publications even pay you for your effort, which is a bonus. Becoming an author can also lead to many other opportunities, and networking can be the fuel that fires the engine of a writer's future aspirations. People who see that you have something to say may ask you to present your topic at a seminar or conference, thereby widening your audience. By becoming more visible, you can get your foot in doors that may not even be apparent to you. All it takes is for one to swing wide open to give you that exciting career change or enhancement you may be craving.

    Best of all, writing gives you mo­mentum to learn even more about your chosen topic. You likely want to write on a specific subject because it is one about which you know something already. Yet the process of organizing your thoughts and supporting your viewpoint with references will deepen your knowledge.

    How to Start?

    Begin by developing a list of things that you'd like to say, ideas that you have put into motion, or skills that you have acquired. Also take into consideration what topics interest you. Then start looking closely at the fine print in publications that accept articles about the subjects on your list. Nearly all publications contain information to help readers — and writers — get in touch with the editorial staff. Contact the editorial staff to make sure that they are interested in a paper on the topic that you want to write about. Some even give you guidelines to help you get started (see page 132 for guidelines for writing for Veterinary Technician). Then find someone — a coworker, boss, or family member — who can listen to your ideas or read your first draft and tell you what you need to hear: You can write!

    What Are You Waiting For?

    Most people just need a little dose of confidence. All I needed was the know­ledge that someone wanted to read what I wanted to write. I was fortunate enough to meet Aggie Kiefer, LVT, who was then Editor in Chief of Veterinary Technician, at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in 2005, when I nearly bumped into her on the walk over to the convention center. I recognized her from presentations earlier in the conference, and I innocently mentioned that I wanted to write for the journal on certain topics. Her positive response was all that I needed to get started, and my writing has since set me on a path of doing my own presentations and endless possibilities.

    So tell that voice inside you that it's time to hush, and get busy with that pen or keyboard. Explore your mind and your experience, and see what lies within that might be interesting to others in the veterinary field. Let the editorial staff have their turn to fine-tune the product into the best fit for their publication, and enjoy seeing your name in print. The next thing you know, you might just see your byline in lights!

    Click here for suggested resources.

    NEXT: Tech Life: See Blackie Run

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