You don’t have time to write, you say? Check out this interview with author, doctor, and flamenco dancer Susan Biali. Her quips and tips will motivate you to write that book, send out those query letters, and build your blog beyond your wildest dreams!

Here’s what Dr Biali says about how difficult it is to get published:

“One thing that really bothers me that prevails in talk about writers and writing is that it’s really hard to break into the market, really hard to get published, and really hard to earn any income,” she says. “I think that as writers we should speak more optimistically about the realities of our profession.  Much of what I’ve accomplished as a freelance writer and author has been in spite of what people told me or warned me about.”

She says the negativity and gloom actually motivated her to write more – but fragile writers might give up entirely because of all the “negative press” about the writing life. If you’re one of those “fragile” writers, you need a booster shot from Dr B! Read her book Live a Life You Love!: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You. And, here are her thoughts on the writing life…

Quips and Tips From a Published Writer and Medical Doctor

Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is an internationally recognized medical doctor, wellness expert, speaker, coach and flamenco dancer.  She has performed for and taught celebrities, and today speaks and dances across North America.  Dr. Biali appears regularly in media such as Fox News, MSNBC, The Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan and Self. 

What would surprise people to know about your writing process or habits?

When I first dreamed of becoming an author, I would take “writing trips” to Italy and Mexico, delicious islands of time in which I could focus on my craft. I had this romantic notion (excuse?) that I needed to be somewhere idyllic and isolated in order to be a productive writer. When I moved my base to Mexico in 2004, I was sure that I would write prolifically in such a beautiful, peaceful environment.  Not so!  Though I outlined the book and wrote numerous essays that ultimately contributed to the content while in Mexico, I did the actual work of sitting down and writing it from start to finish in one very intense month – after I’d returned to live in Vancouver.

What’s the best way your family or friends can support you as a writer?

Not getting upset if I write about them! Anne Lamott instructs us to write as if our parents are not alive – not so easy! (even just writing that, I’m tempted to add “Love you, Mom and Dad” just in case they might get offended by Lamott’s comment – see what I mean?)

Have you published anything you regret?

A few years ago I went through a phase of being fascinated with what some people might call “New Age Healing”; today, I’m Christian with a very different view of the spiritual aspects of health and healing.  So, anything I published while in the throes of my New Age healing phase I would write very differently today.  I’m also a personal development nut and am constantly revising and expanding my philosophies about life, so I’m sure that in year or two I’ll look back at the book I published this month and want to rewrite it, or at least add to it substantially!

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Don’t listen to the naysayers.  If you dream big, go big and don’t be limited by what others tell you is normal or should be expected.  I was told when I took a non-fiction magazine writing course that it takes on average ten years of writing professionally before you can submit to national magazines.  I didn’t listen to that advice and submitted my work to them anyway. I submitted the third non-fiction article I’d ever written to a national publication and they offered me a column that I wrote for eight years.  Sure, that might not happen for every writer but if you don’t try, how will you ever know?

What prior writing experience did you have, before getting published for the first time?

None, really.  I’d done really well in 12th grade English (I was given a 100% final grade), but no one seemed to notice – all my teachers focused on the success I’d had in the Sciences and pushed me towards a career in health.  I avoided writing classes in university as they had the potential to bring my GPA down.  It wasn’t until I had what some would call a breakdown, during my Emergency Medicine residency when I was 28, that I suddenly had this strange impulse to become a writer. 

The first thing I ever wrote was a travel article about a bicycle tour in Tuscany, which I submitted to our regional newspaper.  They put my picture and the headline on the front page of the Saturday travel section, in full color!  That’s what confirmed for me that ANYTHING was possible.

Have you taken writing courses or attended workshops?  Were they helpful?

Yes, I’ve taken a university-based course on novel writing (which most memorably taught me how to describe scenes using all the senses), as well courses on travel writing and creative magazine writing.  I started taking these after I’d already been published, to further develop my skills.  These courses really did take my writing to the next level.

Are you a member of a writers’ group?

No.  I did have a friend who I worked closely with initially; we would share our work with each other and formally critique it.  Until, that is, she read the first chapters of my novel and told me that she hated the main character (who was a poorly disguised version of ME).  That hurt so much that I stopped writing the novel and never touched it again.  I’ve never shown preliminary work to anyone again, other than publishers and magazine editors!

Fellow scribes, if you have any thoughts or questions for this doctor and published author, please don’t hesitate to ask below! (unless it’s about your hernia)

Visit Dr Biali at Susan or at her Psychology blog Prescriptions for Life.

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3 thoughts on “Quips and Tips From a Published Writer, Medical Doctor and Flamenco Dancer”

  1. Hi Leigh Ann! I recognized your name just now, when I saw your comment – you and I are “old friends” from Family Doctor Magazine, I submitted a few quotes for you that you published, and you sent me a copy of the magazine, do you recall? I had my doctor/expert hat on at that time, rather than my writing hat : ). How fun that you came across this post and took the time to comment. I, too, would love to read your post on doctors and writing. I had usually seen the two as mutually exclusive, how fun to have an explanation for my tremendously powerful writing compulsion.
    All the best!

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Leigh Ann,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment ~ it’s great to meet you! I’m fascinated by Mason’s comment that “medicine creates a psychological and emotional need to write.” Why do you think that is?

    When you post your article about doctors and writing, please let me know…I’d love to read it!

    Warm regards,
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..How Do Bloggers Get Readers to Comment on Posts? Tips for Blogging =-.

  3. “It wasn’t until I had what some would call a breakdown, during my Emergency Medicine residency when I was 28, that I suddenly had this strange impulse to become a writer.”

    That rings very true. I recently did some research for a future blog post on quotes from doctors about writing. One recurring question was, why do medicine and writing seem to go together? Daniel Mason, a doctor author, said, “While medicine creates material for writing, perhaps even more important is that it also creates a psychological and emotional need to write.”

    Thanks for the interesting interview. I liked the questions you asked–especially, “Have you published anything you regret?”
    .-= Leigh Ann Otte´s last blog post ..Poll: What are you interested in? =-.