Both Jackie McGrath and Deb Brandon have written an excellent editorial to encourage readers of Advances in Neonatal Care to write for this publication (“Writing Is Not Just for Other People,” Adv Neonatal Care. 2014; 14(2): 69-71). Please let me add the following:
1. Along with paying taxes and dying, most people (not just nurses) despise public speaking and writing. As I have always told my graduate students in advanced practice nursing, educated nurses are able to write and speak, so you will be doing both.
2. Writing and public speaking are NOT genetic! The more you do of both, the better you get at each of these skills—just like riding a bicycle or advancing from novice to expert in clinical practice.
3. Nurses for too long have been the silent and invisible healthcare providers, despite the facts that we are the most “trusted” by society and are the majority of the healthcare workforce. Be silent no more! When a neonatal nurse at one of my conferences shares a practice change or a case study, my first response is: “are you writing this up and where are you publishing this?” You must share your wisdom and experience with your colleagues! Let's stop reinventing the wheel and move the art and science of nursing forward by writing.
4. I am often asked if I started out to write a book. My response is: “Never, do I look stupid to you?” Having written a bestselling handbook, it is both a gift and a curse! A gift in that my “baby” is loved and a curse in that it has to be revised every 2 years. But I have come to love the process and the colleagues I have written with and the new colleagues who have the opportunity to contribute as the older ones retire.
I too would like to offer my services, along with the 2 fine editors of this journal, to anyone who needs help with the writing process. My advice to get started echoes what has been given—write an outline, or at least a list of ideas about a topic that you are interested in and passionate about. Write the first paragraph and the article's conclusion last. You cannot tell the reader what the article is going to be about until after you have written it! Start on the “easiest” section first and build the article around it—computers make this easy to do! If you start to write and get “writer's block,” stop and walk the dogs. Just stepping away briefly helps clear your mind and the words begin to come. The more you write, the less writer's block you get. Just as my grandmother told me never to sew when you are tired because you make mistakes, never try to write when you are tired.
Writers read! So if you want to write a case report, pick up this or other nursing journals and read several case reports to see how they are written and how the ideas flow together. If you want to write about a practice change, read articles about practice change and see how they are written.
Writers write! Write a little every day. Write a paragraph, and then try 2 or more. As you exercise your “writing” brain it becomes easier. Write and let what you have written get “cold”—do not look at it for several days. Then pick it up and read it—sometimes you'll like what you read and sometimes you'll think: “Who wrote this and what is this trying to say?” Then edit, revise, and rewrite if needed.
Writers contribute! Nothing sharpens your skills quite like having to commit your thinking to print. You have to know what you are talking about and you find that out by reviewing the literature on your chosen topic. PubMed and the computer again make this easy! Know what the literature says about your topic and how and why what you have to contribute is new and different.
Writers are empowered! There is power in the written word; that is why writing empowers. Your article about a practice change might be just what a colleague whom you do not know, have never met, and might never meet needs to empower her to start on the practice change in her setting. The process you used to make the practice change and even the mistakes that you encounter empowered you and the reader of your article to succeed.
This year I am celebrating my 47th year as a neonatal and pediatric nurse; I have never been bored in this specialty! I would be honored to assist anyone who would like to begin or perfect their writing skills. Feel free to contact me on my Web site at http://www.professionaloutreachconsultation.com so that we can set up a conference call and get started!
RESPONSE FROM THE COEDITORS
We appreciate Sandra's support of Advances in Neonatal Care, and the support she is offering to our potential authors. Although Sandra is a neonatal consultant, she assures us she will facilitate authors writing for Advances in Neonatal Care for free! We hope you will take her up on her offer and contact her about how best to present your work; we look forward to seeing your submissions about the great things you are doing to improve care for the vulnerable patients and families we serve.